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Proposal to rename Athens street after MLK dies at meeting

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

ATHENS — An alternate proposal doomed a proposed resolution Monday to rename South Jefferson Street for civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

At the insistence of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People local President Benard Simelton, the Athens City Council considered the South Jefferson Street proposal, but the motion failed without a second.

Public Works Director James Rich proposed naming the two-thirds of a mile road between Huntsville-Brownsferry Road and Roy Long Road (on the south side of Steelcase Inc.) for Martin Luther King Jr. He also proposed naming the industrial park there for King.

Rich said this new road is a $2 million project.

Councilman Ronnie Marks also suggested naming a park on the property next to Steelcase after King.

"The south side of town is developing tremendously, so this road will have high visibility," Rich said.

Rich said there are also possible plans for building subdivision across the new road from Steelcase.

Councilwoman Millie Caudle said Rich's proposal could solve a problem that the council has been struggling with for at least two years. Several South Jefferson Street business owners objected to a name change because of the expense they would incur from it.

"The basic issue is visibility for the memory of Dr. King," Caudle said. "And it does more visibility foremost in this issue."

The black leaders had a mixed reaction to the proposal. Wilbur Woodruff, chairman of a council committee on the King issue, said he likes the proposal and it's in line with their goals.

Simelton was more reserved in response because he was just hearing of the proposal. He said there's doubt from the black community, especially since this is the fifth road discussed in its push to name a road after King.

With the OK of the council, Marks made a motion to consider a resolution naming the industrial park road and the park after King.

Approving the motion will allow the council consider the resolution at its next meeting on July 16.

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