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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2007
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Athens still without a street named for civil rights martyr

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — At least 777 cities in the United States have a street named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., according to a University of Georgia and East Carolina University study.

Athens still is not one of them.

In October 2005, renaming Hine Street for King failed to get a motion from the Athens City Council due to residents and the Hine family's opposition.

In November 2005, Councilman Jimmy Gill made a motion to rename Brownsferry Street for King, despite the opposition of white and black residents who live on the street. No one seconded the motion and it failed.

Gill then made a motion to ask Gov. Bob Riley, the local legislative delegation and Alabama Department of Transportation to name U.S. 72 in the city limits in memory of King. That would include signs at major intersections but no address changes for those on the highway. The council unanimously approved Gill's suggestion.

Local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leaders said they still wanted the city to name a street for King.

In August 2006, renaming Elm Street for King failed to get a motion from the council.

That request failed again Monday when no one from the council would make a motion for the name change.

The council said the city should push for the designation of U.S. 72 as a memorial for King. None of them knew the status of the request the city sent to the state in 2005.

"The only reply we have is from the governor's office regarding negative e-mails they received about it," Mayor Dan Williams said. "We also received negative e-mails, but I think they were coming from crazies all over and not locals."

Most of those e-mails referred to Southern heritage.

The council told Williams to track down the status and to get Rep. Henry White, D-Athens, and Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, to help.

Benard Simelton, president of the local NAACP chapter, said he gave the council the study that shows how many cities have a street named for King. He said having a street named in the slain civil rights leader's honor would show that Athens is a progressive city.

"Somewhere in the City of Athens, we can find a street for King," Simelton said.

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