In the late 1800s, the mail was carried on foot from West Palm Beach to Miami. The barefoot mail route was so named because the carriers walked barefoot on the hard sand at the water's edge. These men became collectively known as the Barefoot Mailmen. The beach at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park was part of the 68-mile journey.
Park Renamed to Honor Civil Rights Leaders
African Americans living in South Florida in the earlier part of the 20th century drove from as far away as Palm Beach and Miami to use Fort Lauderdale’s beaches, but met with significant resistance from oceanfront property owners. On May 14, 1946, a delegation from the Negro Professional and Business Men’s League Inc., petitioned the Board of County Commissioners “seeking a public bathing beach for colored people in Broward County." In 1954, the county finally acquired a barrier island site, designated it for segregation, and promised to make the beach accessible but a road was never built. In response, Eula Johnson, Dr. Von D Mizell and many others led a series for protest wade-ins on all white public beaches. In July 1962, the City of Fort Lauderdale requested an injunction to end the wade-ins. The court disagreed with the municipality’s position and entered an order in favor of defendants, thus launching a larger civil rights movement that soon brought integration to local schools.
In the 2015-2016 Florida legislative session, Senator Christopher L. Smith led efforts to rename John U. Lloyd Beach State Park to Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park.
Governor Rick Scott signed the bill on April 6, 2016. It took effect July 1, 2016. Certain facilities within the park were also renamed:
- Alphonso Giles Boat Ramp
- Dr. Calvin Shirley Marina Pavilion
- George and Agnes Burrows Osprey Pavilion
- W. George Allen Leatherback Pavilion
About the New Names
- Dr. Von D. Mizell, founding president of the Broward NAACP, petitioned for the creation of a beach for Negro (Black) citizens in 1946, a time when blacks were denied access to the area's public beaches. Over the next seven years, he kept the pressure on until authorities finally relented and directed Broward County Attorney John U. Lloyd to find a new location for the colored beach, which he did in 1951.
- Eula Johnson - The African-American community next asked for a road to be built to access the beach. The county agreed but waited 10 years and was pushed into action because of the famous "wade-in" staged, on July 4, 1961, by then-NAACP chapter President Eula Johnson.
- Alphonso Giles (1922-2015) – The park boat ramp will be named as the Alphonso Giles Boat Ramp in honor of Alphonso Giles who ferried African-American residents to the beach in the days of segregation. The only way residents could get to the "Colored Beach" was by boat. When the bridge was delayed, Mr. Giles used his boat to ferry black residents to the beach. Mr. Giles and his boating club, the Jolly Anglers, successfully petitioned the City to build a dock for black residents who owned boats to use at the park. Mr. Giles was the first black member of the Broward County Marine Advisory Board.
- W. George Allen - The Leatherback Pavilion will now be known as the W. George Allen Leatherback Pavilion in honor of Attorney George Allen, the first AfricanAmerican to graduate from the University of Florida Law School who, as a young attorney, filed the law suits that led to the integration of the Broward County public schools and the Broward County's public accommodations.
- Dr. Calvin Shirley (1921-2012) – The Marina pavilion is now named the Dr. Calvin Shirley Marina Pavilion because of his efforts in the civil rights struggle. Along with the three other black doctors in town, Dr. Shirley sued to be permitted on staff at Broward General Hospital, now called Broward Health Medical Center. In the 1960s, he and his wife helped establish a county Health Department branch in the Sistrunk neighborhood. The pair also developed the curriculum for Broward's first school for licensed nurses.
- George and Agnes Burrows - Osprey Pavilion is now named the George and Agnes Burrows Osprey Pavilion because of their efforts in the civil rights and business arena to create opportunities within the community. A child of Bahamian immigrants, Burrows was a World War II veteran who attended Bethune-Cookman College and became a statelicensed master electrician. He went on to fight against a segregated system that limited his services to the black community in Colored Town, and launched a successful career that spanned five decades.
- On July 4, 1961, Dr. Mizell and a small group marched to the white-only beach near Las Olas Boulevard and staged a wade-in protest. This first wave of the historical "wade-in" demonstrations were designed to integrate the area's racially segregrated beaches, and soon after county officials suddenly agreed that a road to the colored beach in Dania Beach needed to be built, presumably to discourage blacks from coming to Fort Lauderdale's white-only beaches.
- In 1973, the former “colored beach” became a state park.
John U. Lloyd
Due to the efforts of John U. Lloyd, Broward County's attorney for 30 years, the state approved the purchase of this property in 1954 and the park was named in his honor.
The park land was purchased by the state from Broward County on August 23, 1973. The initial acquisition of 117 acres cost $15,314,000. Today, the park area encompasses 310 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, stretching from Port Everglades Inlet on the north to Dania on the south.