East Montgomery Branch Library

East Montgomery Library

Back in the 1950s, when Bear Brothers Land Co was developing Coliseum Blvd and Eastbrook Shopping Center, they donated a 12-acre parcel of that land to the city as a public park. The city accepted and named it Bear Park. Less than a decade later, when Federal Judge Frank Johnson ordered all of the city parks integrated, Mayor Earl James had a public conniption and declared he would give them away first. And he did (all except Oak Park, which he padlocked). He gave Bear Park to the Exchange Club. A year after that, the Mayor aspired to build a branch library for his East Montgomery supporters, and facing severe budget restraints, he asked the Exchange Club to give back a suitable piece of the park property for that purpose, one at the street end. However, the club would return only 75-feet, and to save face, the Mayor overrode all zoning restrictions and had built a public library with only 10 parking spaces and 5-foot side yards. The Board of Adjustment was horrified –I know, because I had to present the Mayor’s case. A recent visit suggests a deal was worked out many years later, and 15 spaces were added down the side. I felt so bad all these years.

-Charles Humphries

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