No one person can claim credit for the idea of Unity Park. Instead, it is a community project decades in the making. It was built by the community, for the community with the influence of community pillars that will have a lasting legacy thanks to the park's creation.
"Give us a park."
It was a simple request from Reverend Elias Brown Holloway in 1939.
Holloway, the first African American postman in Greenville, was an outspoken community leader and civil rights activist.
In a letter to the Greenville Piedmont newspaper dated March 30, 1939, Holloway wrote, "The Negroes of this city have been seeking for some time for an outlet for the surplus energy of their boys and girls, also for people in general. We want the park because we need it. We want the park because our social and recreational life is at stake. Give us a park."
The Southernside and West Greenville communities continued to use a smaller Mayberry Park, but Unity Park will serve to honor Holloway's request 83 years later.
Elias Holloway (left) and his wife Hattie were fierce advocates for the Southernside neighborhood.
In 1907, Harlan Kelsey wrote the report "Beautifying and Improving, Greenville, South Carolina." Kelsey identified the Reedy River as the emerald necklace connecting a series of three potential riverside parks.
Cleveland Park became the first jewel 20 years later. It took 100 years for Falls Park to become the second. A third area, what he referred to as the "Hudson Athletic Fields," is now Unity Park.
In 1907, Harlan Kelsey first identified the potential of the area that is now Unity Park.
Lila Mae Brock
“I always wanted to be a foreign missionary, but I found the need was just as great five blocks from Main Street as it was in Africa.”
Lila Mae Brock fed the hungry from her own kitchen and dedicated her life to fighting poverty, crime and neglect in the Southernside community.
She founded the Southernside Community Center in 1980 after a career as a cafeteria worker for Greenville County Schools.
Brock encouraged local organizations to feed and clothe "street people," provided space for new Hispanic residents to learn how to read English and helped low-income residents become homeowners and receive job training, employment and childcare.
Lila Mae Brock dedicated her life to the people of Southernside.
"Unity Park is a dream come true for me and for so many families in the Southernside community and across Greenville."
Mary Duckett is the heart and soul of Unity Park, according to Greenville Mayor Knox White.
White said the construction would not have been possible without Duckett's passion and determination.
Duckett is the president of Southernside Neighborhoods in Action and has dedicated herself to making Greenville, and the Southernside community, a better place to live.
Spero Financial dedicated a plaza in Unity Park to honor longtime community advocate Mary Duckett.