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New park to be named after Louisville civil rights activist Alberta Jones

Alberta Jones smiles at the camera in a formal portrait in black and white. She wears a blouse and a jeweled necklace.
Ryan Van Velzer
Alberta Jones was one of the first Black women to pass the Kentucky bar exam and was the first woman to be named city attorney in Jefferson County.

A new park coming to the California neighborhood will be named after Louisville civil rights activist Alberta Odell Jones.

The Parks Alliance of Louisville is behind the project. CEO Brooke Pardue said feedback from the community has guided the development of the park on Maple Street.

The Parks Alliance sent out surveys to 2,200 houses in the California neighborhood for residents to vote on the name. Pardue said the results were clear.

“They have overwhelmingly selected Alberta Jones Park,” she said.

Jones was born in Louisville in 1930 and graduated from Central High School. She went on to attend Louisville Municipal College, then the University of Louisville following desegregation.

She later became one of the first Black women to pass the Kentucky bar exam and was the first woman to be named city attorney in Jefferson County.

During her career as an attorney and civil rights activist, Jones worked as a prosecutor in the Louisville Domestic Relations Court, started a program to increase the number of Black voters and helped Muhammad Ali negotiate his first professional boxing contract.

In 1965, Jones was murdered. The case has yet to be solved. Saturday would’ve been her 92nd birthday.

Despite her impact, many feel Jones is not as well known as she should be.

“People don’t know as much about her as they should,” said Dreema Jackson, a Parks Alliance board member. “We hope to bring her name more in the forefront, let people know more about her.”

Jackson, a California neighborhood resident, said she hopes Jones can become a well-known civil rights figure, not someone who is just remembered during Black History Month.

Jones’ surviving family members are happy that she’s being honored.

“This is the greatest recognition she has ever received, and it will be permanent and everlasting,” Jones’ sister Flora Shanklin said in a news release. “She was such an extraordinary person and way ahead of her time.”

Pardue said the park named after Jones will also have space to tell the stories of her and other prominent local figures.

“We are going to have placards in the walking path in the park that highlight key leaders in the Black community in Louisville,” Pardue said.

Celebrating Black leaders from the area was important to community members surveyed by the Parks Alliance of Louisville.

Jackson hopes children who play at the park will be inspired by what they see.

“I’m hoping it will instill a sense of pride, a sense that they can do anything they put their minds to,” Jackson said.

By including the community in as many steps as possible, the Parks Alliance of Louisville hopes Alberta Jones Park will serve the needs of the people who use it every day.

Other plans for the park include a music-themed playground, an outdoor classroom and performance space, which were top picks in the community survey.

Construction on Alberta Jones Park is set to begin in early 2023.

A passage found in Jones’ diary following her murder read, “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.”

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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