Old Photographs Of African Americans - Unknown Faces (OPOAA)

African American Ancestry, Photographic Research.


Charles Henry Atkinson

December 6, 1950


My parents, John Loyd Atkinson Sr. and Bessie Louise Evans-Atkinson, were from Crawfordville , Georgia , a small town whose major history  being the birth place and home of Confederate vice-President and later Georgia Governor, Alexander H. Stephens ( now a State Park and Historic Site). I am a native Atlantan, born at the William A. Harris Memorial Hospital , which was located on Hunter Street across from Booker T. Washington High School (the First Negro High School in Atlanta ). The first five years of my life were mostly spent at George Washington Carver State Park where I learned how to swim, fish, collect trash, operate a cash register and operate a small motor boat. I remember having lots of fun there. Acworth and Cartersville were the main town close by and often the destination of trips to buy groceries, clothes and socialize. When I started school, I attended Emma Clarissa Clement (we have the same Birthday) Elementary, named for the first Black Woman nationally named Mother of the Year by the Golden Rule Foundation on May 1st, 1946. I remember wonderful teachers who loved their students. I was reading and furthered by Mrs. Cleopatra Johnson, who I later learned was the wife of State Senator Leroy Johnson, the first black elected Senator since reconstruction. This man would later be instrumental in the return of Muhammed Ali to the boxing cha mpionship. High school would find me attending Henry McNeal Turner High School ( named for the Union Army's first Black Chaplain, active politician and a Principal AME Bishop who first ordained a woman and whose Atlanta, Georgia funeral in 1915 was attended by 25,000 mourners)  and seeing world cha nging people as visitors and fellow students. Denise Burse (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne) was always an actress… It was so strange to watch the integration of schools, but we mostly saw this in the faculty, not the student body. And before Turner High acquired a gym we had to use the Anderson Park facility where we often got to see the daily body building training of Lee Haney. I remember Julian Bond frequently at Cooper’s Drugstore and frequently saw author Raymond Andrews walking along Simpson Road or at my Aunt June Andrews (his sister-in-law) house. Even Maynard H. Jackson was a frequent visitor in my neighborhood. I never knew about Daddy being a Tuskegee Airman until years after I met Lt.Col. Chuck” A-train” Dryden, the Squad leader of the first WWII air combat with German fighter planes for the Tuskegee Airman. After meeting Col. Dryden, I got curious about my family history and what I didn’t know. This was when I realized my Daddy was a Tuskegee Airman, the first Black State Park Superintendent in Georgia and Founder of that park. Now I’m researching to determine if Boxing legend, Joseph Louis Barrow Sr. is a relative and should be included in the history of the Barrow- Scott Family …


In 1950, Atlanta resident and former Tuskegee Airman John Loyd Atkinson Sr. was instrumental in establishing George Washington Carver State Park (1950-1975), the state’s only park ever named for an African American. Carver was a brilliant inventor and chemist who helped the devastated farming community and spurred the South’s peanut industry and was awarded the Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for saving southern agriculture. Atkinson had leased the 345 acres (1.4 km²) adjacent to Red Top Mountain Park from the Corps of Engineers with the intention of establishing a private resort for Blacks, like American Beach in Florida. Governor Herman Talmadge helped establish the park and assimilate it into Red Top Mountain State Park, although operated and maintained separately. Atkinson became the park superintendent, the first African-American park manager in the state, serving from 1950 to 1958. James Clarence Benham  Sr. , father of  the first African American on the Georgia Supreme Court,  Justice Robert Benham, became Carver Parks’s second park manager, serving for three years.