Martin Luther King Boulevard

In addition to a number of other good ideas on the Chapel Hill Town Council's agenda, I'm told they will hear a proposal tonight to rename Airport Road to Martin Luther King Boulevard. When I was first exposed to this idea (at a candidate forum last fall), I was taken aback. I've known that road for a long time by only one name.

But actually, it makes a lot more sense to me than naming the road after an aiport that hardly anyone uses, and most people expect to be closed within a few years. And It's especially appropriate that the street that will be the future grand entrance to Carolina North should be named after such a great American. I hope it will serve as a daily reminder to all of us to do whatever we can to live up to the moral challenges of our times (of which there are many).

It's a great way to commemorate the week of his birthday and I will go down to see the Town Council and tell them so. See y'all at the March on MLK Day!

Total votes: 187

Comments

Well, Mark, I never claimed to be anonymous. Why "Prinny", my nick name, is considered anonymous to you, I don't give a crap. Your research doesn't really mean anything. You should really mind your own damn business.

But, thanks for the apology.

This isn't really big news, but I thought I'd pass it along anyway...

The topic of renaming Airport Rd. by the Town of Chapel Hill has made it all the way to Comedy Central (woo hoo).

Last night at 11:45 pm on Tough Crowd w/Colin Quinn, they aired a segment called "I Have A Street" in which 4 comedians (2 African American, 2 White) briefly discussed/debated our local issue. I didn't get to hear much of what they had to say because there was a tag-team snoring match going on between spouse and dog. All I managed to hear was "Chapel Hill, NC, MLK, Airport Road, Redneck" and some other racial comments that I assume one comedian found amusing.

I'm sure it will re-air if anyone is interested (or not).

To settle this issue once and for all:

http://pub.alxnet.com/poll?id=2421247

You can only vote once/IP.

It seems rather doubtful that "Who's Prinny" is actually Mark Chilton, in spite of what the email link says.

Sorry just trying to point out that people are not as anonymous as they suppose on this site . . .

Is it just me, or did a whole bunch of the comments in this stream disappear from April through June? Well, recalling that discussion, including some of the posts I made and responses from others, I will see if anyone else was following that missing stream.

First off, there was a comment about "Sacrifice" -- i.e., that we all need to be willing to make small sacrifices now and then when it is for the common good. At least, that is what I think was the gist of the suggestion that Airport Road businesses and residents just suck up the inconvenience and cost for the benefit of having a Martin Luther King Blvd to replace this major thoroughfare. One thing really struck home to me thinking about this word "sacrifice", as well as the many comments from others that it is a "small price to pay" for such a needed honor to Dr. King. Isn't "sacrifice" based on something that someone takes on VOLUNTARILY, or at least WILLINGLY? Shouldn't we give more consideration to the opinions of the Airport Road business and property owners than to just try to force something on them that they don't want? (Incidentally, I am NOT an Airport Road resident or business person, although I live a stone's-throw away.)

I have a really hard time listening to everyone say how little it will actually cost people to make this change, when they people touting this will NOT have to actually absorb these costs or inconveniences. And I have an even harder time with all of you out there trying to make inconsequential the huge headaches, time costs, and frustrations that go with address changes, especially when someone else is imposing them on you involuntarily. It is not nearly as simple as "free" address change cards at the Post Office or exhausting one's stationary. And don't even try to tell folks the Post Office will still deliver mail correctly, even with the old street name, because they won't, try as they might.

What I don't get -- and why I whole-heartedly agree with the Mayor and the 4 other council members who voted to involve more people in these discussions -- is why proponents of this plan felt it appropriate to ask the 12 residents of the current Martin Luther King Street how they felt about losing their street name, yet they did not similarly engage the nearly 1,000 residents and businesses along Airport Road. Yes, these Airport Road folks were "invited" to speak at public forums, but only to speak about the VERY specific idea set before them that was created without their input -- to rename Airport Road for Martin Luther King. They were NOT asked who they might like to rename the road for; they were NOT asked whether they would support a memorial to Dr. King, possibly in some other form; they were only asked to say yes or no to this road renaming -- for which almost all of them are now being labeled as racists if they oppose.

Hooray for Mayor Foy, with his much more democratic proposal and approach to a very sensitive issue. And kudos to Councilmember Wiggins for taking a difficult stance in support of democracy, when so many people are blaming her for letting them down.

well Billy Graham is a hometown guy in Hendersonville. Maybe that had something to do with it. However, the Henderson Town Council recommending naming that stretch of I-26 for MLK, and the STATE is the entity that vetoed the suggestion. Not exactly what we have on our plate here in Chapel Hill.

That's creepy, Mark. There're wackos all over the net. That's why race-based societies are dangerous. However, as long as you're not planning on burning a cross on my front lawn, I don't care if you know my name and where I live. Come over for tea some time.

To settle this issue once and for all:

http://pub.alxnet.com/poll?id=2421247

You can only vote once/IP.

Here's an idea: the University, with the blessings of the Philosophy Department, the CH Preservation Society and the local flying community, all motivated to honor both Dr. King and the local history of the airport, and in the interests of community harmony, would rename the Horace Williams Airport to "Martin Luther King Airport." Would Dr. Williams really mind? The Town would then rename the road "Martin Luther King Airport Road." That's one syllable less than "U.S. 15-501 Bypass." Dr. King would have a major road and an airport named for him. Perhaps the other ideas for naming other local public facilities (library, park, school) would come to fruition as well. Road signs and public maps would change immediately upon the renaming, but business stationary and privately produced maps would change over time. The post office would know what to do with mail addressed to whatever address the sender uses. Some in the community will continue to call it Airport Road, but officially that would not be its name. Others will call it Martin Luther King Airport Road, or MLK Airport Road, or MLK Road, or just MLK or Martin Luther King ("take Estes from Franklin to Martin Luther King, turn south and you'll see the Y on your left"). After/if the airport closes, the road name would remain and be a major route to Carolina North or, as the old timers might continue to refer to it, the Horace Williams tract.

Andy,

That's a great idea (seriously). That and the proposal for a Malcolm Xpressway are the best ideas yet.

That's brilliant, in a perverse way.

well somebody thinks addresses mean something if falconbridge and the governor's club are paying the USPS for a chapel Hill addresswhile being respectively in durham and chatham counties---seems a little bit like deceptive advertising. guess those GC people didn't want their friends thinking they lived in PITTSBORO for gods' sake.

Here at MiniTruth, we wonder what Billy Graham has that MLK doesn't. This little story up out of the Memory Hole from Hendersonville, NC should sound very familiar.

http://www.ncdot.org/news/dailyclips/2003-09-24aa.html

when I came to Chapel Hill in 1968 there were still signs for Nelson, I think where NC54 crosses Miami Blvd in Durham. That was the old way to the airport ,

Jay,

The original proposal was to rename Airport Rd from end to end, i.e. from North Street where is peels off of N.Columbia all the way to I-40.

But as of now, there is no proposal.

I am not sure what sign would be placed on the interstate.

Fred Black wins the lollipop for being able to pinpoint the location of the current "Nelson Highway," but Gerry gets a bonus lollipop for knowing the history.

Some people just call it E. Hwy 54 now. Durham calls it an "urban growth corridor," and it's colored in red for "commercial" on the land-use map of Durham's new comprehensive plan.

Trivia: The developer of Falconbridge requested the Chapel Hill address from the USPS and received it, thinking it would make the houses more valuable. Because we're across the street, our neighborhood was included in the address change. Before Falconbridge came along, it was just plain old Durham. I will try to find out how much people in the neighborhood spent changing their stationery, and will report back pronto.

Hi Mark K.

how far will the road go - or what is the proposal.

will it go southward to Franklin Street?? Beyond Franklin street.

Also, will I-40 have the name on the freeway as an exit?

thanks

As someone whose address is listed by the post office as being on Nelson Highway (where's that?) in Chapel Hill (it's actually in the city of Durham and Durham County, but that's a long story), I can attest to the fact that you can continue to use a street name decades after that street has been renamed and the original name all but forgotten, and that all your mail and package deliveries will still get to you just fine. And if you really want to get crazy, you can even use the name of a town you don't actually live in!

A lollipop to the first poster who knows Nelson Highway.

Isn't Chapel Hill Nelson Highway the access road that runs along Hwy. 54 near Fearrington Road and I-40 and near Ecko Furniture?

quoting:

It would seem to me that changing the road name would INCREASE the profile for a while of everyone on the street, especially businesses.

When the name of the 15-501 By Pass was changed to Fordham Boulevard, where was all the opposition? Did I miss something?

In any case, people are free to tell people they are located on "the airport road" for as long as they want. I think people still tell people to take "15-501 bypass" without being compelled to say "Fordham Boulevard".

This is being said as in impartial observer from another planet (Raleigh)

I think "Nelson" is the old name for the are around RTP, and Nelson Highway is an old name for NC54 to RTP. Is that correct?

just a thought about some other considerations

MAPS: both online and printed maps will need to be changed. I don't know how frequently maps are updated, but there will be some confusion on the part of new residents, or out of town visitors, at least for some period of time, as well as some cost involved.

SIGNAGE: some business signage will have to be changed if it includes the name Airport Road on it.

ADVERTISING: businesses put a lot of money into making sure that people know where they are and no question it will be disruptive to change a company's address. I don't know that anyone can quantify the impact, but we have to at least concede that there is some. The transient nature of the community should actually make it easier for a lot of businesses, since new people move here everyday that will only know the road by its new name and will have no past associations of "airport road."

As far as the post office giving free address changes, that's true, but as someone who had a mandatory address change (the houses were renumbered) YEARS later there are still occasional problems with receiving mail, people accessing my address off old databases, etc.

It's one thing to change your address because you want to---you move or something---and another to do so because you have to. I'm not saying that the objections are necessarily a reason for or against the change, but it's human nature to be a little bit defesnive when imposed change occurs.

just a thought about some other considerations

MAPS: both online and printed maps will need to be changed. I don't know how frequently maps are updated, but there will be some confusion on the part of new residents, or out of town visitors, at least for some period of time, as well as some cost involved.

SIGNAGE: some business signage will have to be changed if it includes the name Airport Road on it.

ADVERTISING: businesses put a lot of money into making sure that people know where they are and no question it will be disruptive to change a company's address. I don't know that anyone can quantify the impact, but we have to at least concede that there is some. The transient nature of the community should actually make it easier for a lot of businesses, since new people move here everyday that will only know the road by its new name and will have no past associations of "airport road."

As far as the post office giving free address changes, that's true, but as someone who had a mandatory address change (the houses were renumbered) YEARS later there are still occasional problems with receiving mail, people accessing my address off old databases, etc.

It's one thing to change your address because you want to---you move or something---and another to do so because you have to. I'm not saying that the objections are necessarily a reason for or against the change, but it's human nature to be a little bit defensve when imposed change occurs.

I think the biggest problem with renaming Airport Rd

would be the cost. Business' owners would have to absorb

advertising, letterhead & signage change costs and the Town is not in a good position to be spending more money right now.

Instead of naming a road after MLK, which every other municipality from here to CA has done in order to show their deep commitment to symbolically showing their deep commitment to King, the town should fund the "Martin Luther King Peace & Justice Lobbyist". This lobbyist would work full-time in Raliegh & Washington D.C. to promote policy which springs directly from the philosophy of King. One major focus would be to bring the corporate welfare money back home where we can use it for good local projects - education, job creation, mass tranportation, etc.

King's powerful anti-war message is generally lost in the feel-good static about civil rights that most politicos refer to. We should send somebody to D.C. with thge modest initial goal of bringing back the cost of one Tomahawk missile per year (about $1 mil) so we can spend that money on real security.

Mark

How many "Mill Roads" still have mills on them? Leave it alone--it's part of our town's history. Changing the name will be an expensive PITA for businesses/homeowners (all those change of address cards!). Not to mention deeds, maps....

Melanie

I may be remembering incorrectly, but I believe this idea was discussed in Carrboro a while ago. The problem was that apparently there is already an MLK Street (or something) in the area, and the transportation department (or someone) doesn't allow duplicate street names. I don't remember the details, but I think the hurdles were sufficient to stop the idea in its tracks.

There is an MLK Street in Chapel Hill. It's a few blocks long and is in a low-income housing development. With all due respect to that neighborhood, this doesn't do much honor to The Man.

We currently have both an Airport ROAD and and Airport DRIVE in Chapel Hill, so I'm sure we can add an MLK Boulevard in addition to MLK Street. Carrboro can do whatever they like... MLK Way, perhaps?

I would agree that Airport Road is a proper choice as someone like MLK is worthy of a major road. While there are MLK boulevards everywhere, they never tend to get the best real estate.

We have Franklin Street and Martin Luther King had more impact than Benjamin Franklin.

I'm not opposed to the idea; I just don't know what it will require. Here's a link to a related agenda item from the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Quick summary: road-naming conventions for both Carrboro and Chapel Hill do not allow duplicate street names. According to the minutes for that meeting, the Aldermen agreed to find some other way to honor Dr. King or another figure from the civil rights movement (the second link below). Maybe someone here knows more about the rules, etc.?...

Agenda Item (PDF file)

http://www.townofcarrboro.org/BoA/Agendas/2003/01_21_2003_E4.pdf

Minutes (PDF file)

http://www.townofcarrboro.org/BoA/Minutes/2003/01_21_2003.pdf

I consider myself adamantly opposed to this idea. While well meaning, this to me is akin to putting a massive American flag on a vehicle to prove you're a patriot. You were a great American, a great person, and we're going to honor you by naming a ROAD after you? Why not the new landfill? No disrespect to Dr. King with that last comment, I assure you. Let's use his name to honor something worthy: A school, a civic building, a park; not a strip of asphalt. Yuk!

Re. the above. Why not name the new Southern Community Park after Dr. King?

I don't mean any direspect, I just want to sound off on this. I think renaming Airport Road is a fine idea, but Chapel Hill has a rich history in activism, particularly civil rights activism. In keeping as much of our local heritage alive, couldn't we find a prominent local civil rights activist? It just feels to me like it would mean alot more to the community if we found a way to honor and remember those who made a big difference for Chapel Hillians. At least, I think it'd mean alot more for me to be driving down Caldwell Blvd rather than MLK Blvd.

“If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they’re lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is, ‘Run!”’

Chris Rock

Would someone please post a list of all the roads in Chapel Hill which are already named for national figures? For example, is Franklin Street named for a national figure such as Benjamin, or perhaps Aretha? Or is it named after a local figure or a local family? If we have a tradition of naming local roads after NATIONAL figures, then it is worthwhile to engage in a debate as to whether to name a road after Martin Luther King, Jr. Otherwise, lets move on please and talk about something else.

Yes Franklin Street is named after Ben Franklin.

http://www.chocvb.org/chapelhill.shtml is one of many sources you could have easily found to let you know.

Do we move on -- or do you?

Darn! I was really hoping that street was named after the soul singer.

Way to go Mark Chilton! Great suggestion--I've always been confused about the synonymous 54/15-501 bypass anyway.

http://herald-sun.com/opinion/chhedits/57-448002.html

----I heard that your city council recently considered renaming a street for MLK. My town (Zephyrhills, Florida) had a similar experience. A petition for the name change was brought to the city council. The city council sent out letters to invite property owners (and those who owned property that abutted the street to be affected) to attend the meeting and to speak their minds. The townspeople who owned property did speak their minds. Approximately 90% of them wanted to honor Dr. King, but in another fashion. Suggestions varied from a bust or statue in a local park to renaming an entire park for Dr. King, to naming a new street for Dr. King (our town is growing quickly), renaming the local airport, the local library, the soon-to-be vacant (at that time) police station which could then become the MLK Community Center. Alas, the city council ignored all of those suggestions and renamed the street despite the protests of the property owners. What ensued was a horrible turn of events when a reporter or two decided to turn what was anger at the city council members for not listening to their constituents into a full blown race war. The focus has shifted from what the true issue was, that the city council members turned a deaf ear to the property owners and voted to change the street name anyway, into an awful mess that has created a heartbreaking lack of racial harmony in our tiny town. This inspired me to write a young adult novel about this very topic. I thought that you might be interested.----

PublishAmerica has just purchased the rights to The Street, a young adult novel by Zephyrhills resident Dr. M.J. Price.

In October of 2003, PublishAmerica purchased the rights to Price's fourth book, The Prescription For Happiness, an all-natural self-help book that is due to hit the shelves in all major booksellers in the Summer of 2004. Price's first three books were animal/pet oriented books and were released as a collection in 1999.

The Street is the story of how a petition that proposes that a street in a small town be renamed to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and the city council's vote to change the street name after hearing the majority of speakers voice alternate suggestions in order to honor Dr. King) affects two teenage girls who are best friends (one girl is African American, the other is Caucasian), their families, and their entire town. It touches upon some of the history of Dr. King's civil rights work, some of the controversial allegations about King himself, how small town politics and government sometimes work, how people are human and make mistakes, how public figures are usually held to higher standards than the common man or woman, issues of race and class, how racism is rooted in ignorance (and how anyone of any race who judges others based on something so irrelevant as the color of skin is a racist; i.e. racism is not the sole domain of one particular race), that young adults should think for themselves, do research and not follow blindly, the awesome power of the media to affect positive change or to sow the seeds of discontent to sell publications and air time, and that standing up for what you believe in your heart is right is not always easy, but it is important and may help others and may inspire others, just as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired others to affect meaningful and necessary social change.

For more information, please contact the publisher, PublishAmerica, at 301-695-1707.

Wow, spammy AND racially privileged. I want to delete it so bad...

I was born and raised in Raleigh and then moved to Durham and then finally to Chapel Hill. Raleigh and Durham both have Martin Luther King Boulevards. While these aren't the most run down streets in the city, their disrepair does not give honor to the man for whom they are named. In fact, it appeared (as it does for the Chapel Hill street) that as soon as the signs were erected to rename the road, the municipalities felt that their commitment to honoring MLK was over. Due to this trend in not only the cities I lived in, but in others in practically every municipality of substantial size, I feel that naming a road after MLK is a bit crass and disrespectful.

If you wish to honor him, then do so in some way that he would be proud of.

In the mean time, the Horace Williams Airport has spent more time in Chapel Hill than MLK ever did and so I quite think that it has a right to keep its name. Besides, it never protested violently, so I can see that the man might actually be in favor of it.

Do you really think MLK wants a road named after him when it involves changing signs and the collective memories of long-term townies? You are killing a part of the town history in order to be like everyone else. I love Chapel Hill and one of the things I like about it is our ability to find unique solutions to difficult problems; in this I am disappointed.

>>We currently have both an Airport ROAD and and Airport DRIVE in Chapel Hill<<

Posted by: Ruby Sinreich at 9:55 AM 01/12/04

It is actually "Horrace Williams Airport Drive". How do I know? I live off of it. The "Horrace Williams" are in tiny letters to the left of the sign. I'd say that makes quite an amount of difference where road naming rules comes in.

A wise woman I know once said "Have people forgotten about MLK because they don't drive down him every day?"

This is a stupid idea, conceived by people or a person with nothing else to do, pretending to be looking out for the benefit of all.

People are pointing out "There's a MLK street here, and I know of one there" but that's because EVERY CITY and TOWN has a "MKL" road. Even places no one has heard of bothers to dub at least one street MLK Something. And WHAT has this done for us?! Abolsutely nothing. If anything, commenting time and time again that you're on "MLK Parkway", how do I get to Leather and Lace?" is bound to make his name less and less powerful and meaningful. In fact, I *never* think about the man when I'm going to Carmike Wynsong. I just try to remember to exit onto the street. When you get right down to it, it's frickin pavement! There *is* no deeper meaning there. Birds crap on his name and we're supposed to feel good about it?

Airport Road is fine as it is. I imagine not many people dwelled on its meaning until this stupid proposal came along.

>>Posted by: TheInfamousJ at 9:24 AM 06/14/04<<

Eeep ... I just drove around Chapel Hill and realized that the road I was thinking of is not the one you were referring to. Could the moderator please delete this and my previous comment? I appologize for my apparent arrogance, but I was thinking of Estes Drive Ext. which, where it intersects Airport RD, has a sign to the Horrace Williams Airport that many people mistake for a road sign.

Must we always let our rationale be blinded by lofty ideals just because they sound good.

Often we get too caught up with such an agenda that we don't step back and say, 'wait a minute, is this really the best idea for all those involved' or are w ejust fulfilling some fantasy that sounds good in our idealistic minds?

Why not MLK Creek instead of Bolin Creek?

Friends of MLK Creek has a nice aura to it. costs very little to taxpayers or residents and water is necessary for all form of life - a positive nurturing substance instead of conduits for polluting vehicles?

Unless of course that offends whatever Bolin did/stood for.

Remember the struggle for Martin Luther King Day? Then too, all sorts of white people found all kinds of reasons to support honoring the man and the movement in another way. The liberal editorial board of the New York Times, for example, suggested that it would be unfair to single out one civil rights leader. Hard to shake the impression that people can't handle the idea of just implementing an idea that clearly emerges from the African American community. Business cards and change of address forms? Give me a break! These aren't hefty expenses. And I'm sure the post office will be up to delivering whatever mail comes that still addressed to airport road.

Yes, of course there are other things that should be done about the symbols of Chapel Hill's history. I once heard Yonni Chapman talk about renaming a cafeteria at UNC after participants in a workers' struggle. And let's not get started on 'Silent Sam'.

But Martin Luther King is the only American figure comparable to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi--a figure revered almost across the political spectrum worldwide. What exactly is so hard about honoring him with a street name (and let's be real--in our society, we use road names A LOT more than parks, etc), and a major road at that?

I agree with those who say we should honor MLK in other ways... the trouble of changing a road name does not honor him like teaching about him and following in his footsteps.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a generation of young black and white Chapel Hillians to seek justice and change through non-violent civil disobedience. At a time when racial tension was high, and young people were greatly pissed off about their society, King's teachings provided a deep and radical approach to social change which, despite white backlash, succeeded in many ways in overturning segregation. His influence on this town at a critical period in its history cannot be understated.

On the other hand, commemorating him and his work around here has become limited to a once-a-year banquet on campus, a march and church service on MLK Day, and a pathetic little strip of road, ending in a cul-de-sac behind the cemetary. If the current MLK namesake road was more than a dead-end, then maybe finding another, more prominent road wouldn't be necessary.

As it is, the current MLK road is an insult to someone who everybody seems to agree was a great leader, and the hue and cry over how we can better remember him without renaming Airport Road is sort of empty argumentation. Some folks want the name changed, and they have good reasons for it. Some folks don't want it changed, and are suddenly now full of good ideas on how to honor civil rights activists, where it hadn't really been important to them before.

I imagine, though, that African-Americans have noticed the crappy street named after an American legend to whom they feel allegiance, and perhaps had a cynical thought or two about the people who named that street.

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