PITTSBURG -- Stoneman North Park will get a new name on Saturday -- John Henry Johnson Park -- to honor a former Pittsburg High School football star who went on to play on the San Francisco 49ers and other NFL teams.
John Henry Johnson, who died in 2011 at the age of 81 in Tracy, will be remembered at a dedication ceremony at the park. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 after a career playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Calgary Stampeders, San Francisco 49ers (where he was part of the famed "Million Dollar Backfield" from 1954-56), Detroit Lions and Houston Oilers.
At Pittsburg High School, Johnson excelled at football, basketball, baseball, track and field and wrestling. He later played football at St. Mary's College and Arizona State University.
While attending Pittsburg High in the late 1940s, he was also a teammate of Jim "Smiley" Camitz, who coached the Pitttsburg Mallards when they won the 1963 Pop Warner football league championship for the 12-to-14-year age group.
"He is probably the best player that ever came out of that school," said Camitz, who was on the Pittsburg High football team with Johnson in 1947 and 1948.
Johnson's high-school jersey, with the number 35, is on display at Pittsburg High. Throughout his pro-career he continued to wear a jersey with the number 35.
"He was a star athlete at Pittsburg High School and went on to create great things," said Don Buchanan, Pittsburg's director of recreation and maintenance services.
City officials have signed off on the name change, which was first advocated a year ago by the Community Advisory Commission. There are also plans to replace the old playground equipment in the park.
Supervisor Federal Glover, who knew Johnson as a family friend, Mayor Nancy Parent, and several members of Johnson's family will be attending the dedication where a commemorative plaque and a new sign will be unveiled at the park entrance.
The park isn't the first public use facility that bears Johnson's name. In 1987, the year he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the City Council changed the name of frontage road that provides access to the 10-acre park from Golden Park Road to John Henry Johnson Parkway. After Johnson's death, several residents suggested that a more prominent remembrance would be appropriate.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
What: Dedication ceremony renaming Stoneman North Park to John Henry Johnson Park
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: 800 W. Leland Road; southeast corner of parking lot.