"The whole Edwards story is a great example of what free enterprise and a genuine feeling of love for one's neighbors can do.” – Stanley Draper
Walter “W. J.” Edwards was a sharecropper’s son from Mississippi who came to Oklahoma with his family in 1907 to seek a better life. As a teenager, he took a job as a laborer in an Oklahoma City scrap yard and within a few years he owned the yard. A brilliant entrepreneur, he became wealthy by starting and developing businesses on the northeast side of the city, most of which offered jobs and services to African Americans who were otherwise denied access to them.
Edwards built low-cost homes in the rolling hills to the east of the segregated housing areas closer to Downtown and offered them for sale at prices families could afford. When he discovered that the Federal Housing Administration refused to loan money to black homeowners, he went to Washington to fight for their rights. He did the same thing when it became apparent that African American soldiers were denied their GI Bill housing benefits after World War II. Over 50 temporary housing units for black veterans were constructed in this park in 1946 until the Edwards homes were built.
When his wife Frances Edwards became ill, W. J. secured the best care he could for her at the famous Mayo Clinic. The Edwards were grateful they could pay for Frances’ care, but they knew there were thousands of African Americans who could not pay for good medical care or be treated in segregated hospitals – so they built the Edwards Hospital to provide the best possible care for their neighbors at affordable prices. This hospital was built with the Edwards’ own funds on the northwest corner of Edwards Park on NE 16 east of Grand Blvd.
This park was named for Walter J. Edwards on July 4, 1944.