Remembering Memorial Park’s military past

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Updated 12:52 pm, Monday, July 24, 2017

On this date in 1917, construction began  on Camp Logan. The site is better known now as Memorial Park, the largest and most heavily used green space in the city.

The federal government took advantage of Houston’s climate and the nearby Ship Channel for the World War I-era U.S. Army training camp, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

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No doubt the heat in Houston, coupled with the kindly coaxing of Army drill sergeants, quickly turned recruits into trench-ready fighting men in no time. The other WWI-era training area was located at Ellington Field.

In 1924 the deserted camp’s 1,000 acres became Houston’s Memorial Park with the help of the Hogg family.

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But there is a bit of Camp Logan’s past that Houston would probably wish wasn’t a part of its history.

From Lisa Gray’s column on the camp in Oct. 2013:

In late July (1917), a battalion of African-American soldiers arrived in Houston to guard the Camp Logan construction site. About a month later, one of those soldiers tried to intervene when he saw police officers assaulting and arresting a black woman, dragged partially clothed from her house. The police beat and arrested the soldier, too. That afternoon, when a corporal from the base tried to investigate the arrest and arrange for the soldier’s release, the police beat, shot at and arrested the corporal, too.

A race riot ensued – a riot that involved 156 armed black soldiers marching on the city, and left 20 people dead.

These days the park is constantly full of people making use of its wide expanses and running trails, along with the stray run-in with either a furry or scaly member of the Houston population.

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The park as you know it today will likely go through many changes over the two decades or so as the Memorial Park master plan become a reality.

Restoring the park’s ecosystem after 2011’s drought is a major goal, as the park lost more than half its trees as the state was scorched by high heat and non-existent rain. Expect extra drainage, parking, and land bridges as the area changes to fit the needs of Houstonians.

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