Jack Johnson Park at Old Central

2601 Avenue M
Galveston, Texas

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson
Nicknamed: “The Galveston Giant”
World Heavyweight Boxing Champion 1908 to 1915
Park Dedicated November 13, 2012

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was born on Galveston Island on March 31, 1878, then the largest city in the Lone Star State.  In 1903 he won the Negro Heavyweight Championship. In 1908 he beat Tommy Burns to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world which he held for the next seven years.

The Old Central Cultural Center Board with the help of Ennis Williams, Board President and Project Coordinator Douglas Matthews, Barbara Sanderson-City Parks Director, Sterling Patrick-City Grants Director, Council Members Dr. Linda Colbert and Tarris Woods, $150,000 was secured to build the Jack Johnson Community Park next to Old Central Center.

The concept or schematic drawing of park was done by committee member James Josey, founder of the Galveston African American Museum.  The park architect was Brax Easterwood of Galveston.

Jack Johnson was the second child and first son of Henry and Tina Johnson which had six children. By the early 1880s, the Johnson family was living on 808 Broadway, in a one-story wooden house with a basement and enclosed porch that Henry Johnson had built himself. Always being bullied after school, he took to the sport only after his mother threatened to thrash him as well, if he did not start to defend himself. Johnson subsequently discovered that he possessed the traits of a good fighter and by the turn of the century he was earning a living by sparring in local clubs. He had whipped everyone worth fighting in Galveston, and decided to try Chicago, the home of some of the best boxers in the business. He established himself as a top fighter by beating Denver Ed Martin for the Negro Heavyweight Championship in 1903. Racial discrimination in the professional ranks prevented Johnson from gaining a shot at the world title, however, until he was tabbed in 1908 as the only deserving contender. Making the most of a golden opportunity, he easily knocked out Tommy Burns to become the undisputed heavyweight champion.

James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Jack Johnson; and the fight took place on July 4, 1910 in front of 20,000 people, at a ring built just for the occasion in downtown Reno, Nevada. Johnson proved stronger than Jeffries. In the 15th round, after Jeffries had been knocked down twice for the first time in his career, his people called it quits to prevent Johnson from knocking him out. The "Fight of the Century" earned Johnson $65,000 and silenced the critics, who had belittled Johnson's previous victory over Tommy Burns as "empty," claiming that Burns was a false champion since Jeffries had retired undefeated.

Outside the ring, Johnson savored every minute of his glory days, which frustrated white American to no end. At a time when blacks were treated as second-class citizens, Jack Johnson lived as he pleased and did it openly, with proud defiance.


1878 Born John Arthur Johnson
1889 Leaves public school to work full-time
1897 Wins first professional fight
1899 Loses to John “Klondike” Haynes in five rounds on May 6
1901 Loses to Joe Choynski in 3 rounds on February 25; jailed with Choyniski for 24 days for violating Texas anti-prizefighting law
1902 Beats Jack Jeffries in 5 rounds on May 16 and John “Klondike” Haynes in 13 rounds on May 28
1903 Beats Denver Ed Martin in 20 rounds on February 3 for the Negro Heavyweight Championship
1905 Loses to Marvin Hart in 20 rounds on March 28
1906 Beats Sam Langford in 15 rounds on April 26
1907 Beats Bob Fritzsimmons in two rounds on July 17
1908 Begins touring with a vaudeville company’ beats Tommy Burns in 14 rounds on December 26 to win the world heavyweight title
1909 Beats Stanley Ketchel in 12 rounds on October 16
1910 Beats Jim Jeffries in 15 rounds on July 4
1911 Marries Etta Terry Duryea
1912 Opens the Café de Champion salon in Chicago; first wife commits suicide; Johnson marries Lucille Cameron
1913 Convicted of violating the Mann Act; sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine and spend a year and a day in prison; flees country
1915 Loses to Jess Willard in 26 rounds on April 5
1920 Returns to the United States, ending self-imposed exile; serves 10 months in the federal penitentiary at Fort Leaven worth, Kansas
1925 Marries Irene Pineau
1936 Makes operatic debut in Aida; begins engagements at Professor Hubert’s Museum in a Broadway arcade
1946 Dies from injuries sustained during an automobile accident on June 10 near, Raleigh, North Carolina
Jack Johnson Park
2601 Avenue M
Galveston, Texas

This Park is open to the public
from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

No Drugs allowed. No Guns allowed.
No loud music. No profanity.
No gambling in park.
No overnight sleeping in park.

No alcoholic beverages allowed without prior approval, unless it is part of an approved private function.

Park can be reserved for private parties, functions or private celebrations for a nominal fee.

For park reservations, please contact either:

Pete Henley at 409-392-0317
Douglas Matthews at 409-599-5520

Thank you for your cooperation and compliance with these rules!

This park is not part of the City of Galveston Park System.

The Old Central Cultural Center Board

2627 Avenue M
Galveston, Texas

Private Functions at Jack Johnson Park

Jack Johnson Park
Rental Fees Summary

  • $50 per hour (2 hour minimum reservation)

  • $60 Clean-up Fee Deposit (money will be returned if park is clean)

  • Functions after dusk, must have certified security officers to be selected by Old Central Center.

  • Concerts or other night functions’ security cost will be $30 per hour per officer.  The number of officers will be determined by crowd size.

  • Concerts may require a loud speaker permit from City of Galveston and are secured separately by the applicant or event sponsor. 

A rental agreement must be signed by all parties and money paid in advance to guarantee reservations.

Old Central Cultural Center, 2627 Avenue M, Galveston, Texas
Copyright Old Central Cultural Center, Inc.