Lake Maude Park Renamed to Reuben Williams Sports Complex
by James Coulter
Reuben Williams used his experience as a former professional baseball player to form the city’s first Little League teams during his career as a recreation supervisor for the city of Winter Haven.
His legacy with the city’s recreation department, especially through his work at Lake Maude Park, will continue to live on now that the park has been officially renamed after him.
At their regular meeting on Monday evening, Winter Haven City Commissioners voted unanimously to pass a resolution renaming Lake Maude Park and the Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center after notable community figures including Williams.
The resolution renames Lake Maude Park to the “Reuben Williams Sports Complex.” It also renames the WHRCC Double Gymnasium to “Otis Birdsong Gymnasium” and the Lake Maude Park baseball fields to the “James ‘Schoolboy’ Tugerson Baseball Fields.”
Reuben Williams, for whom the Reuben Williams Sports Complex was named, served as the Lake Maude supervisor for the Winter Haven recreation department from 1964 through 1976.
According to a 2004 Ledger article: “During his time at the recreation center, he organized the Polk County Women’s Softball League, Little League Basketball, and flag football and assisted in organizing the Trojanettes, a traveling softball team. He also organized the Lake Maude Recreation Team Club, which was comprised of 140 members who shared interests in religion and education.”
Reubens served as the football and basketball team captains his junior and senior year at Jewett High School, played baseball with the Polk County All Stars and Jesse Richardson All Stars, and even served on the army’s baseball team as player and coach after being drafted in 1948, going on to lead the 30th Battalion’s team to the Post Championship in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Reubens was honored with a community service award presented by the Goodrum and Darby Foundation Inc. in 2004, one year before his death from complications with cancer on June 1, 2005.
The decision to rename the park and the recreational center facilities after him and other notable community individuals wasmade by the WHRCC History Committee. The committee meets monthly, according to the city memo, “to advise staff on the WHRCC project and create strategies to preserve the community’s rich strategy through various means in the Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center Improvement Project.”
“Members of the WHRCC History Committee surfaced a desire to see Reuben Williams honored as part of the Lake Maude Improvement Project in recognition of his significant contributions to recreation in the City of Winter Haven. Much of Reuben Williams’ work was centered in the Lake Maude Park area, making this a fitting location for the project.”