Page 66 - Aug2017

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By Kimber Fountain
Golden Gloves
Jack Johnson Tree Sculpture Restored by Local Artist
T
he City of Galveston is roughly twenty years
shy of a two-hundred-year existence, which
means for nearly two centuries onlookers
have been wondering how the city built
on a barrier island does not cease to exist. After
every hurricane, they have speculated the odds of its
likeliness to return. But for every time Galveston has
been knocked out, it has gotten back up the same
number of times plus one.
Much like Galveston, Jack Johnson’s legacy is a
product of his environment. Seemingly impervious
to hardship, the first African-American world
heavyweight boxing champion (1908-1915) was born
in Galveston and fought his first professional fight
on the island. During his upbringing, he enjoyed the
benefits of a social construct shaped by a city
whose development was lockstep with a
diverse European influence, the result of
one of the busiest international ports in
the 19
th
Century.
Although segregation was still widely
considered normal at the time, Galveston’s
reputation as a “walking town,” where all classes
and races coexisted harmoniously and no distinct
geographical lines were drawn according to income
or skin color, provided Jack Johnson a childhood in
which he was never ostracized because of his race.
He would visit the homes and dine at the tables of
his white friends, and never considered his race an
impediment.
The same could not be said for a large number of
boxing fans and organizers across the country in the
throes of the Jim Crow era, yet Johnson managed
almost always to rise above the criticism with an
unwavering belief that he was worthy of his success
and free to live as he pleased.
Today, at the hands of a local business owner and
artist, the story of Galveston and its Giant have now
come full circle.
Hurricane Ike (September 2008) claimed 30,000
trees on public property alone. Although some
were destroyed by wind damage, the majority were
poisoned by the saltwater. After a long, dry summer,
many of the trees were parched and thirsty when the
Gulf of Mexico converged with Galveston Bay and
consumed the island, and root systems desperate for
relief quickly absorbed the plentiful supply of water.
But in a triumphant testament to survival, local