The First Place to be Named After an African-American in Jackson, Michigan
The images in the photo gallery below show photos of the first public space in Jackson to be named after an African-American. It's a little park with a picnic area, located at the corner of Milwaukee and Prospect streets.
The man's name was Grover Cleveland Leake, a local businessman. But why was this park named after him? In the early 1960s, Grover donated this land specifically to be used as a public space where residents could relax, have a picnic, converse, and just plain escape for a while.
Mr. Leake was born in 1894 in Mt. Airy, North Carolina (the same town where Andy Griffith grew up and used as the model for the fictional town of 'Mayberry' on “The Andy Griffith Show”).
As an adult, Grover moved to Texas where he found work as a janitor. After serving the military at Fort Sam Houston in El Paso during the 1910s, he traveled northward until he reached Michigan.
Settling in Jackson, he eventually found business success when he opened his own establishment, a nightclub named Leake's Lounge. He became a respected member of the community and in the early 1960s, as a “thank you” to Jackson, he donated a chunk of his land for public use.
The park was dedicated in 1963 and titled Grover C. Leake Park – making it the very first public place in Jackson to be named after an African-American. The park was re-dedicated in 2004 when it was refurbished with new park benches, signage, and landscaping.
Mr. Leake passed away in 1971 at age 77 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Jackson.
Jackson's First Place to be Named After an African-American: 1964
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