Thursday March 30th, 2023 4:33PM

Black American veterans honored with Eugene Brown Veterans Memorial

By Joy Holmes Multimedia Journalist
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The Eugene Brown Veterans Memorial was unveiled Thursday at Butler Park to honor Black Americans of Gainesville and Hall County who sacrificed their lives during World War II, the Korean War and the Global War on Terror.

The Eugene Brown Memorial sits at the entrance of Butler Park and features name engravings of 26 Black Americans, including one woman. The memorial is located on Gainesville City’s southside on the grounds formerly known to house E.E. Butler High School, the segregated school for Black students in Gainesville from 1962 to 1969.

Gloria Evans is a Gainesville native. Her father, Paul Hailey, served in World War II and is one of the names featured on the veteran’s memorial. She said the location of the memorial is perfect given her brother was a student at E.E. Butler High and her grandchildren play at Butler Park. 

“This means a lot for our community because, you know, there’s so much history in our community but it’s not documented, it’s not recognized,” Evans said.

Gainesville City Council Member Barbara Brooks spoke Thursday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She is proud of the work the community has done to build-up the Butler Park area and this is the first time city and county governments have believed in investing south of Jesse Jewel Pkwy, she said.

“This part of the city is cut off from midtown by highway 129 that we hear traffic from. It’s cut off by Jesse Jewel, so we’re segregated. We’re an island. So, it’s incumbent upon Hall County and Gainesville City to continue to make improvements that unite all of Gainesville. It’s really important,” Brooks said.

Standing proudly alongside the new memorial waved an American flag and a statue of Lady Liberty designed by a local artist named Jane Taylor. The statue was originally placed at the Hall County Government Center before it made its way to its new home at Butler Park. The statue was moved after a Gainesville City official made the recommendation, Taylor said.

“[Lady Liberty] stayed [at the Hall County Government Center] for a few years, and Katie Crumbly called about the new veterans park, and she decided this would be a even more appropriate place for the Statue of Liberty and I eagerly agreed with her, so I’m so happy she’s here,” Taylor said.

The Eugene Brown Veterans Memorial was the vision of the Newtown Florist Club, E.E. Butler Steering Committee and the Paul E. Bolden Inc. American Legion Post 7.

American Legion Post 521 Commander Johnny Varner also helped lead the initiative. He said this specific type of memorial is unusual.

“This may be the first of its kind in the state of Georgia, when I did my research, as far as a monument and memorial that has been dedicated to veteran service members that have served during times of segregation,” Varner said.

Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon and Commissioner Jeff Stowe are among Gainesville officials who helped bring the vision of the Eugene Brown Veterans Memorial into fruition. Both officials reflected on the history of Black Americans in war and the significance of the new addition to Hall County.

“Not one time did we fight and not have African Americans defending our country,” Couvillon said. “It wasn't until after maybe Vietnam, and maybe some would even say later, that those same people who went and defended our country came back and they saw racism and violence towards them. Just think about that. They fought for the freedom of this country and then were treated with disrespect.”

The ribbon-cutting unveiled the first phase of the Eugene Brown Veterans Memorial project. The goal is to grow the memorial to include plaques and names of other veterans in the future.

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