George Washington Carver State Park

In 1950, Governor Talmadge leased shoreline to create Red Top Mountain State Park, and nearby established the first “Georgia State Park for Negroes.” The 345-acre park was named George Washington Carver Park, honoring the renowned Tuskegee Institute botanist and inventor.

John Loyd Atkinson, an airman from Tuskegee, returned from World War II looking for a recreational facility for African Americans. Immediately after the war, there were no parks for blacks, and segregation laws were strictly enforced in state parks against whites. Atkinson tried unsuccessfully on his own to obtain a permit to set up a park, but his campaign was rewarded with the creation of Lake Allatoona. Georgia State Parks leased 1,457 acres that became Red Top Mountain State Park to create George Washington Carver State Park. It was a 700-mile round trip from Atlanta and was created in the 1950s when recreational facilities for black Americans were discriminated against by their white counterparts.

Atkinson helped find a black Boy Scout camp and ran the park from 1950 to 1958, but was unlucky to get a permit before retiring from the state park system. The State Parks Division leased 345 acres that became George Washington Carver State Park for the newly created Lake Allatoona. John Atkinson became the first Black Park Superintendent in Georgia and built a new park for blacks in the town of Tuskegee, Georgia, with a total area of 1,457 acres.

The Atlanta Girl Scout Council then took over the operation of the Carver Area and Lake Allatoona, and what began as a Boy Scout camp for Negroes was fully integrated into the Red Top Mountain State, which is fully controlled by Georgia State Parks and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Samuel Nathan was Carver’s last superintendent, but after a cost-saving effort by the state parks division to combine all of its operations with those of Red, Nathan moved to Richmond Hill State Park to become the first black superintendent of a state park in Georgia since the end of World War II.

The park was removed from the park system in Georgia and the lease transferred to Bartow County. There is now a lease agreement between Bartows County, which operates Bartow Carver Park, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia State Parks. The first-person narrative, shared by the Atlanta Girl Scout Council and Atlanta State Park, takes today’s visitors back to the place where George Washington Carvers Park gained its first national recognition as a national park. Together they designed a sign describing the history of the national park and its role in the development of the Georgian park system.

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