Patterson Park to celebrate namesake at 15th anniversary

Scott Broden, The Daily News Journal, August 17, 2018

Dr. James R. Patterson, the name sake of the Community Center, is pictured here in this historic photograph. Patterson Park will be celebrating it’s 15 year anniversary for the new Community Center, on Saturday Aug. 18, 2018. Helen Comer / DNJ

Patterson Park Community Center will honor its namesake dentist when it celebrates the 15th anniversary of the expanded recreation center Saturday.

“He was a servant leader to the community,” said Gloria Bonner, a retired Middle Tennessee State University administrator.  As a child at Bradley Elementary, Bonner said, she gained life skills by working as an after-school volunteer for Dr. James Patterson.  ‘I would leave the school and walk over to his office. I would sterilize his equipment in the evening.’

Patterson was known for donating dental care for students at Bradley Elementary, which served black children in grades 1-8 before desegregation.

“He touched a lot of lives,” Bonner said.  The dentist died in 1969.

Bonner hopes many will attend the free anniversary event, which will include food, games and music, from 8:30AM to 4:30PM, p.m. at the center, 521 Mercury Blvd. in Murfreesboro.

Patterson Park Community Center originally opened in 1979 as an indoor gathering space with a large mural showing upbeat scenes of a diverse group of people in Murfreesboro.  About two decades later, city officials, including Ron Washington, worked on expansion plans for the center.

Space for meetings, workouts, fun

Today’s center still includes the mural and meeting rooms, as well as the Myrtle Glanton Lord Library, a game room, and a theater for performing arts and speeches.

The center also offers two gyms, two racquetball courts, a walking-running track, two large exercise rooms, equipment for weight training and cardiovascular workouts, and an indoor pool with fountains for younger children, a tall slide with loops and lap swimming.

Outdoors, the center has a playground, picnic pavilions, a multipurpose field and courts that can be used for basketball or tennis.

Before working on plans for the center, Washington served on the city’s planning commission.  He accepted appointment from former Mayor Joe B. Jackson to lead the committee that planned for the expansion of the center.

Other committee members included Bonner, former Vice Mayor Chris Bratcher, Fred Beneby and the late Melvin Hughes, who was pastor at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.

‘I appreciate all of the committee members,’ said Washington, another former vice mayor and longtime member of the Murfreesboro City Council.

Patterson Park Community Center sits where the old football field used to be for Holloway High School, a campus that served black students before desegregation, recalled Bonner, ‘a proud graduate of the last class in 1968.’

‘We got all the discarded books,’ said Bonner, who is pleased that schools, like Patterson Park, serve a diverse group of families these days.

Coordinator grew up in neighborhood Pierre Lyons grew up excelling in sports in the neighborhoods near the center before becoming a professional baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds minor league teams from 1973 to 1978.  He then became a teacher and coach for 35 years, including 23 at Oakland High School in Murfreesboro.

Since December 2013, Lyons has worked at the center and is now the recreation facility coordinator of operations at Patterson Park.

‘There ain’t no place like home,’ he said.  ‘I’ve been blessed with three great jobs, and this is the best one I’ve had.’

Lyons has his own memories of Dr. James Patterson.

‘I can remember him as a dentist when I had to have a tooth pulled,’ Lyons recalled.  ‘I was a teenager at that time.  I know I hollered, and I cried.  It hurt.’

Patterson was ‘champion for the community’

Lyons hopes children will learn about and appreciate the namesake of the center.  A plaque about Dr. James Patterson near the main entrance describes how Patterson sought to improve race relations and human relations, Lyons said.

‘I want to continue his legacy with his intent and sentiment,’ Lyons said.

Bonner recalled that the dentist would provide emergency services at any time at his home office, and accept cooked beans or other meals as payment from neighbors who had little spare money.

‘He understood the needs of the community, and he advocated for the community,’ Bonner said.  ‘He was a great champion for the community.’

Reach Scott Broden at sbroden@ or 615-278-5158 and on Twitter @ScottBroden.

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