In his last session as a state senator, Democrat Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale will leave a legacy that reflects his county's long struggle for racial equality.
The Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday to rename John U. Lloyd State Park as Von D. Mizell - Eula Johnson State Park to honor two African-American pioneers. Mizell was Fort Lauderdale's first black doctor and Johnson was the county's first NAACP president.
In the years before the civil rights movement, Fort Lauderdale's world famous beach was off limits to black residents, and they were restricted to what was then known as "Colored Beach" at John U. Lloyd State Park, just south of Port Eveerglades. The park was originally named for a former county attorney who handled the paperwork creating the park, but Smith said the time has come for the state to change its name.
"John Lloyd is a good man," Smith said, "but now is a good time to acknowledge why we have the park."
Smith's bill (SB 288) also renames a park boat ramp for Alphonso Giles, who ferried local black residents to the beach in the days of segregation. Three of th epark's pavilions are being named in recognition of other local civil rights trailblazers, including one for W. George Allen, who was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Florida law school and who as a young attorney pursued lawsuits to integrate the county's public schools.