William A. Smith, Jr., who passed away in 1967 after 20
years as executive director of the Frederick Douglas
Community Association, was a revered figure in the Toledo
African-American community. Smith Park was built and
dedicated to his memory in 1974.
Last week’s celebration
was organized by Sandria Brown on behalf of Lathrop Turner,
the general contractor for the soon-to-be-constructed Mott
Branch Library. The event was hosted by the Toledo Lucas
County Public Library. The new Mott Branch will be
constructed on the edge of the 13-acre Smith Park adjacent
to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy for Boys. Along with
the recently constructed Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union,
the new Mott Branch Library represents a renaissance along
the Dorr Street corridor.
The $8.2 million
investment in the new branch will help revitalize Smith Park
and will also bring in City of Toledo investment to renovate
sections of the park.
Ty Boyd, Lathrop business
development engineer, was one of the speakers on Tuesday and
ensured the audience that “community engagement is one of
the most important things we are going for.”
Also speaking at the event
were Toledo City Councilman Tyrone Riley who presented a
City Resolution to Amy Hall commemorating her grandfather’s
legacy, and Ray Wood, president of the NAACP. Riley and Wood
both grew up in the Smith Park neighborhood and recounted
tales of playing games and ball as kids in the area’s alleys
and streets before Smith Park was completed in 1974. After
that “it was a punishment not to be able to go to Smith
Park,” said Riley.
Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz
offered his insights from his research on William Smith, who
died before the mayor was born. “We need to be sure that
Smith Park honors the person it is names after,” he said
while promising that the City would bring the park back to
its past glory.
“My grandfather’s vision
was all about community,” said Hall. “Who he was and what he
stood for are still relevant today.”