ACWORTH — Despite the chill in the air, Mayor Tommy Allegood could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he kicked off the grand opening of Doyal Hill Park in downtown Acworth.
“God has a big smile on his face today,” Allegood said as a crowd of over 100 people gathered Thursday to see the park named for Doyal Hill, a former Acworth councilman and the city’s first Black elected official. Hill died in 2017 at the age of 80, and served 12 years on the City Council after being elected in 1983.
The park will serve as a tribute not only to Hill, but to the contributions and history of Acworth’s entire Black community. It features a prominent sculpture in the center, along with seven interpretive signs detailing Hill’s life and the lives of those he knew, grew up with and worked alongside.
The location of the park embodies generations of history. It will stand beside the Rosenwald School, built in the early 20th century specifically for the education of Black children in the city. Behind the school, the spires of Bethel AME Church tower overhead. And Zion Hill Baptist Church can be seen just down the street, which was founded in 1864 along with Bethel AME.
“This is in the heart of our historic Black community,” said James Albright, Acworth’s director of Parks, Recreation, and Community Resources. “We’re also able to … tell the history of a lot of the people and the facilities that are located within this area.”
After Zion Hill’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Frank Johnson Jr., provided the program’s invocation, a series of speakers spoke to Doyal Hill’s importance to the city and their hopes for what the park might represent.
James Newberry works as special projects curator at Kennesaw State University and conducted much of the historical work that made the park possible. He said the project was among the most rewarding he had worked on in his career.
“I view (the exhibit) as a sort of family or community photo album,” Newberry said to the audience, many of whom he thanked for contributing directly to the project. “I hope that even though what you’re seeing around you has changed a great deal … that some of it will come back to life.”
Acworth Alderman Tim Houston marked the occasion as a “red letter day.”
“What we’re doing today as a community is acknowledging and preserving our history. A lot of African American history has not been told, or been left out of the history books,” he said.
Houston became emotional when speaking to the importance of the park’s namesake.
“I can’t think of a person more deserving to be honored than Doyal,” he said. “They used to give him the nickname, The Bridge. He would always fit in where nobody would fit, to help carry us over.”
Doyal Hill’s children, Eugene Hill and Darlene Almon, spoke of their father as a warm, hard-working man, who spent years working at Kennestone Hospital and Lockheed Martin before entering local politics.
“He provided for his children, his family, and he never quit,” Almon said. “He loved this city like family, and this city, in turn, loved us.”
Then came the moment of truth: Mayor Allegood and the Rev. Johnson pulled the cloth from the park’s centerpiece, a sculpture by local artist Ron Huffman. Huffman has envisioned the work, which resembles a teacher standing over a lectern, as a “larger than life” tribute to education and community.
Moments later, Eugene Hill and Darlene Almon, joined by other members of Doyal Hill’s family, cut the ribbon on Cherokee Street, and the park was officially open for business. Walking through the crowd as residents surveyed the historical markers, pointing out the photos of old friends and family members, there was one refrain that kept rising above the chatter: “It’s amazing, it’s just amazing.”
Doyal Hill Park is located adjacent to the old Rosenwald School at 4410 Cherokee St. in Acworth.