Nearly 5,000 people have signed an online petition requesting that the city of Fort Worth change the name of Jefferson Davis Park in south Fort Worth, joining a national movement to remove Confederate statues, monuments and other symbols.
The grassroots petition was launched “in light of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va.,” said Emily Farris of Fort Worth, who started the effort. In a letter attached to the petition, she said Jefferson Davis Park, located on Townsend Drive, was named during a time when the Ku Klux Klan was experiencing a revival in the city “and needs to be changed.”
“The park, and many other memorials and monuments across the country, were part of a revisionary myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and an effort to preserve white supremacy,” wrote Farris. “Given the diverse demographics of the park’s surrounding neighborhood and our city, Fort Worth should find a more appropriate name for the park.”
Farris declined to talk about the petition drive on Thursday.
City officials will meet Friday to begin discussing the issue, said Richard Zavala, park and recreation department director.
The park, and many other memorials and monuments across the country, were part of a revisionary myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and an effort to preserve white supremacy.
Emily Farris, Fort Worth resident
Jefferson Davis Park, established nearly 95 years ago, is not the only local park with Confederate ties.
Peter Smith Park is named for John Peter Smith, a Kentucky native known as “the father of Fort Worth.” He moved here in 1853 and within months turned an abandoned army hospital into the city’s first school, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The Tarrant County hospital system is named for him.
Smith supported the Confederacy, forming a company of 120 men and serving under Col. William Steele, and was later promoted to colonel, according to the state historical association. A marble bust of Smith sits in the small park, which is less than an acre across Jennings Street from City Hall and adjacent near Saint Patrick Cathedral. It’s on land Smith donated to the city in 1903.
According to city records, Fort Worth acquired 6.5 acres for Jefferson Davis Park in October 1923, but city staff is still researching when it was named for Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States during the Civil War. It was likely done just after the park land was bought, city officials said.
273 Number of parks in Fort Worth
Jefferson Davis Park is located in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood, surrounded by homes built before the 1950s and just north of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Adella Obregon, who lives across Townsend Drive from the park, said Thursday the name doesn’t bother her. She said the park is used mostly by kids playing soccer.
“That (the Civil War) happened a long time ago,” Obregon said.
Susan Alanis, an assistant city manager, said this is the first time the city has been contacted about the park’s name.
Related stories from Star-Telegram
Two other Confederate symbols in Fort Worth, she said, are markers in the national historic register designation in Trinity Park near the Van Zandt Cottage. Alanis said they were placed there by the state in 1963.
The city has had a park-naming policy in place since 1980. Parks are typically named for their geographic location, such as Fossil Creek or Monticello. Of the city’s 273 parks, more than three dozen are named for individuals. Renaming of parks is “strongly discouraged,” the policy says. Parks named for individuals “are not eligible for renaming,” it says.
Typically, parks named for individuals are done posthumously, Zavala said.
Ann Zadeh, whose district includes Jefferson Davis Park, said she was approached by a resident in April asking if the park’s name could be changed to honor Fort Worth native Patrick Zamarripa, one of the five Dallas police officers killed in a downtown ambush in July 2016.
Fort Worth is not the only Texas city being drawn into the Confederate issue. According to published reports, Austin is considering renaming Robert E. Lee Road, San Antonio might remove a 118-year-old Confederate monument, and Dallas has formed a task force regarding public Confederate monuments there.