Papa Jack: Statue of Limitations

By Robert Ecksel on November 15, 2012
Papa Jack: Statue of Limitations
"Not all black people are proud of Jack Johnson. They think he was an 'uppity Negro.'"

Galveston, Texas, birthplace of the first African American heavyweight champion, has dedicated a park and bronze statue to Jack Johnson…

“I made a lot of mistakes out of the ring, but I never made any in it.”—Jack Johnson

It’s not a stretch to call 2012 the Year of the Statue.

Rocky Marciano, who retired in 1955 with a 49-0 record, finally got a statue in his hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts. Tony DeMarco, who retired in 1962 with a record of 58-12-1, finally got a statue in his hometown of Boston. And now Jack Johnson, who never formally retired but died in a car crash in 1946, has gotten a statue as well.

Galveston, Texas, birthplace of the first African American heavyweight champion, has dedicated a park and bronze statue to the now revered but once polarizing Papa Jack, also known as the Galveston Giant.

A dedication ceremony was held earlier this week at the still-being-developed Jack Johnson Park.

An earlier statue of Johnson once stood in Menard Park, but it was described as “impressionistic” rather than lifelike and as a result rather hard to identify. Johnson’s identity was further marred when gun-toting vandals used the old statue for target practice.

The coordinator of the Jack Johnson park and statue, Douglas W. Matthews, said the city paid $150,000 because some Galvestonians “want to apologize for what the city officials didn’t do back then,” adding, “Not all black people are proud of Jack Johnson. Some families don’t want him as a role model. They think he was an ‘uppity Negro.’”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Two workers that were putting the finishing touches on Jack Johnson Park were asked if they were fans of the legendary champ.

One man simply said “No.” The other said, “I hadn’t even heard of him until this project.”

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  1. Tex Hassler 05:54pm, 11/28/2012

    A high quality statue needs to put up on the sea wall at Galveston. What represent Jack Johnson, the present statue, is a disgrace. Jack was Texas’s first heavyweight champion and a truly great one at that.

  2. Martin Sax 11:20pm, 11/16/2012

    If interested a statue to commemorate my grandfather Teddy Baldock Britain’s youngest ever World Champion will be unveiled in Langdon Park, Poplar, East London in May 2013. The artist Carl Payne also responsible for the Randolph Turpin statue in Warwick has done a fantastic job.

  3. The thresher 07:44pm, 11/15/2012

    Strange looking dude in there.

  4. DavidJ 03:13pm, 11/15/2012

    Jack Johnson died in 1946 not 1931

  5. Mike Silver 11:47am, 11/15/2012

    Looks nothing like Johnson.

  6. Robert Ecksel 04:33am, 11/15/2012

    Excellent point. I’d like to see the bullet-riddled “impressionistic” statue to see who it resembles.

  7. Matt McGrain 03:23am, 11/15/2012

    An acquaintance of mine just pointed out that this statue looks more like Sam Langford.

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