Our oldest City park, now called James Weldon Johnson Park is located in the heart of Downtown and just across the street from City Hall. It was first established as a public square by Jacksonville's founder Isaiah D. Hart around 1857. The park is now named after James Weldon Johnson who was he a distinguished lawyer and served as executive secretary at NAACP for a decade. Johnson was also a composer who wrote the lyrics for "Lift Every Voice and Sing," known as the Black national anthem.
The park was formerly named Hemming Park started out as City Park and then renamed St. James Park. During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon both gave speeches at Hemming Park a few hours apart on October 18. President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a speech in Hemming Park on October 26, 1964.