T.O. Fuller State Park
T.O. Fuller State Park was the first state park open for African Americans east of the Mississippi River. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in the area initiated construction of the park facilities in 1938. It was designated Shelby County Negro State Park in 1938 and was later changed to T.O. Fuller State Park in 1942 in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Fuller, a prominent African-American educator, pastor, politician, civic leader and author, who spent his life empowering and educating African Americans. Dr. Fuller served as principal of the Howe Institute, a precursor to Lemoyne-Owen College, for 27 years.
The park is a place that protects and showcases unique natural habitat while offering a wide range of outdoor recreational assets – including a new Interpretive Nature and Education Center, hiking trails, playgrounds, an Olympic-size pool and splash pad, ball fields, basketball and tennis courts, and terrific gathering spaces for families, churches, organizations and groups.
T. O. Fuller State Park works to preserve the park's CCC history and demonstrate how early park development fits within the context of the African American civil rights movement in Tennessee. The park also boasts a historical significance dating back even before its founding. During an excavation for a proposed swimming pool in 1940, CCC workers unearthed evidence of prehistoric village, opening the door to a lost and forgotten civilization. The site has since been developed as Chucalissa Indian Village and is operated by the University of Memphis. It includes a village, preserved archaeological excavations and a modern museum.
The 1,138-acre park is located within the southern city limits of Memphis - seven miles from Graceland, 10 miles from the Memphis International airport and 15 miles from downtown. Although the park is close to the city, the wooded area of the park allows for a natural and serene setting. Its diverse terrain, from the Mississippi flood plains to the high and overshadowing bluff ridges, makes the area an ideal place for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Hiking trails range from moderate to rugged. The Discovery Trail is a four-mile loop where visitors have the opportunity to see the Chucalissa Indian Village and Wetlands.
Picnicking is also popular with 35 picnic tables and grills located throughout the park. The park has four shelters that can accommodate groups of 40 to 120 people. All shelters have grills, nearby bathroom facilities, picnic tables and electric outlets. Reservations are required and should be made well in advance. For guests looking for a place to swim during their stay, there is an Olympic-size pool centrally located in the main recreation area of the park. The pool is open from early summer through Labor Day.
This rich historical significance, combined with unique biological diversity makes T.O. Fuller a special gem within the Tennessee State Park system.
Source: Tennessee State Parks