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First Black woman to practice law in Kentucky honored with park

California neighborhood residents choose the park name to remember this pioneering Louisville attorney and civil rights champion.
Credit: Parks Alliance of Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new west Louisville park will soon bear the name of pioneering attorney and civil rights champion Alberta Jones.

The Parks Alliance of Louisville unveiled the playground design for the new park taking shape along Maple Street in the California Neighborhood.

Residents chose to name their new park "Alberta Jones Park". This was made official at a Louisville Metro Council on Nov. 10, a key milestone in the creation of a much-needed community greenspace.

“Residents know best what is needed to make their neighborhood vibrant and connected,” Brooke Pardue, Parks Alliance President & CEO, said. “That’s why we’ve centered the community’s voice in the design, development, and leadership of this new park.”

Jones was the overwhelming favorite of residents who completed a survey mailed to 2,200 households in the neighborhood and available online. 

Alberta Jones' Life and Legacy

A trailblazer from west Louisville, born in 1930, Jones was one of the first Black women to pass the Kentucky Bar exam and opened a practice in Louisville just blocks from the site of the new park. 

She is famous for negotiating the first professional boxing contract for a young Muhammad Ali, boxing legend and hometown hero.

In 1965, Jones became the first woman appointed a city attorney in Jefferson County, working as a prosecutor in the Louisville Domestic Relations Court to convict perpetrators of domestic violence.

She also participated in the March on Washington, was a member of the NAACP, and worked with the Louisville Urban League. She formed the Independent Voters Association of Louisville, renting voting machines to teach Black Louisvillians how to vote, resulting in 6,000 new voters.

Her life was tragically cut short in August 1965 when she was murdered. Her case remains unsolved. However, the U.S. Department of Justice reopened the case in 2017.

“Every person who visits this park will be reminded of Alberta Jones—what she did in the past, and a reminder that we need to keep her legacy and fight alive for our future,” District 4 Councilman Jecorey Arthur said.

Plans for Alberta Jones Park

The first phase of park construction is set to begin early next year, according to a PAL press release. 

Some features included in the park:

  • A lawn for festivals, events and athletics
  • Walking paths
  • Fitness stations
  • A picnic shelter
  • A performance space
  • An outdoor classroom
  • A state-of-the-art playground

The playground, designed by Earthscape, aims to celebrate music-making with giant musical notes and a scale built into a soaring climbing tower, sound-making devices, as well as swings, slides, and connecting bridges, as requested by the community.

The entire park centers around the theme: “Thriving Community”. Plans outline a series of etched granite markers to be installed to honor people and places that make the California Neighborhood special.

The site is poised to become Louisville’s newest public park. This is particularly important for people living in the California neighborhood who lack access to greenspace. Only 1% of land in this community is dedicated to parks and open space, according to the release.

For Flora Shanklin, naming the new park in honor of her big sister Alberta Jones brings tremendous joy. 

“Words cannot describe how happy and grateful I am. This is the greatest recognition she has ever received and it will be permanent and everlasting,” Shanklin said. “She was such an extraordinary person and way ahead of her time.”

Shanklin said the park recognition is especially fitting because Jones was so focused on helping children. In fact, after her death, Shanklin found the following written in Jones’ diary: “When I die and cross the way, no greater epitaph will there be, for some small child to say, ‘Gee, she did a lot for me.’”

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