It seems only fitting that J. Fred Johnson Park was chosen as site of the Kingsport Veterans Memorial. After all, J. Fred Johnson Park is the City of Kingsport’s first created city park while the veterans memorial is Kingsport’s first organized destination honoring its veterans.
J. Fred Johnson Park was born out of the City of Kingsport’s efforts to create a planned recreation area that began with the acquisition in 1939 of the Legion Pool from Hammond Post Number 3 of the American Legion and continued with the building of the Civic Auditorium (1939) and J. Fred Johnson Stadium (1941-1942).
On June 2, 1942, Kingsport’s Board of Mayor and Alderman voted to spend $3,000 to install a fence and playground equipment on the wooded lot located beyond J. Fred Johnson Stadium. While only a portion of the lot would be used for a playground, the remainder of the wooded area would be used as a picnic area with grills, furnaces, and tables being installed to accommodate families and individuals as they enjoyed this new City of Kingsport offering. This recreational area would come to be known as J. Fred Johnson Park and, though Kingsport would add more parks over the course of the next several years, this one was the first of its kind.
When the park first opened, it served a population of more than 14,000 residents.1 Visitors, however, from outside the Kingsport area would also make use of J. Fred Johnson Park due to its proximity to Legion Pool, then considered a rare community asset. Today, Kingsport is home to more than 55,000 citizens and J. Fred Johnson Park is still serving the public.2
Today, in addition to serving as host site of the Kingsport Veterans Memorial and city park, J. Fred Johnson’s wooded lot is home to more than 240 trees, many of which are “old growth” trees that remain from the park’s earliest days. The park’s inventory of trees features 17 different species including its most abundant resident the Northern Red Oak. Other varieties found at J. Fred Johnson Park are Black Oak, Bur Oak, Pin Oak, Post Oak, Shumard Oak, White Oak, Box Elder, Crepe Myrtle, Eastern Red Cedar, Flowering Dogwood, Green Ash, Red Maple, Siberian Elm, Sweetgum, White Pine, and Winter King Hawthorn. J. Fred Johnson Park’s tallest tree is a towering, stately 80-foot Black Oak.
1 “Kingsport, TN Population.” USA Population: States, Counties, Settlements, https://population.us./tn/kingsport/. Accessed 29 April 2022.2 “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Kingsport City, Tennessee.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/kingsportcitytennessee? Accessed 29 April 2022.