Soon there no longer will be a Confederate Boulevard in Little Rock after the city board approved a request Tuesday to change the name of the last remaining portion of the street.
The topic drew more than 50 people to Tuesday's city board meeting; six spoke in favor of the name change and six spoke against.
After almost an hour of comments, the city board voted 8-2 without discussion to approve the name change. Joan Adcock, city director at-large, and Ward 7's B.J. Wyrick were the dissenting votes.
City Directors Gene Fortson, Kathy Webb, Brad Cazort, Doris Wright, Lance Hines, Dean Kumpuris, Ken Richardson and Erma Hendrix voted in favor.
The "Confederate" name is posted on a few-block area. The name for the majority of the roadway was changed from Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard in 1974 to honor the Springer family, and the Rev. Horace Springer, who was one of the first black property owners in the area. He is credited with much advancement in the Sweet Home neighborhood.
It will cost the city about $600 to change the five street signs to Springer Boulevard, Public Works Director Jon Honeywell said.
No resident or property owner on Confederate Boulevard showed up at Tuesday's meeting to speak against the street name change. It took at least 50 percent of property owners along the street to petition for the name change. The Planning Commission voted 10-0 last month to recommend the city board approve the name change.
Three members of the Springer family spoke to the city board asking for a vote in favor Tuesday night.
Horace Springer III teared up during his statement as he recalled when an angry mob passed his grandfather, the Rev. Horace Springer, on the way to lynch a black man and asked the reverend to join them, not knowing he was black because his skin color was light.
"My legacy may not have -- I may not have -- existed had they known that was a black man they were talking to. We proudly live in that community. We serve in that community. ... I have nothing against the Confederacy. I never thought much of Confederate Boulevard to be on a street sign right outside my window, but I was very proud when I drove to work and saw the signs on that street change," he said referring to the change in the 1970s.
Those who spoke against the street name change Tuesday invoked the name of their ancestors who fought in the Confederate States Army. Many argued that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, rather states' rights, and that the majority of Southern people were not slave holders.
"I've been watching the news over the past few months and I've seen the attacks that have been going on against the South and symbols of the South and I find it horrible, I really do," said resident Jay Clark.
"One hundred years from now when we all stand here with brown skin speaking English with a Spanish accent and the political winds of the day say let's change the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, what kind of feelings, what kind of animosity is that going to bring," resident Sharon Welch-Blair said.
Those speaking in favor of the name change said the change won't erase history, rather it will honor the Springer family whose history also should be remembered.
"When we talk about our Southern heritage, we must expand that narrative to include more than the Confederacy. The Springer family -- their struggle and sacrifices -- are part of our heritage, too, and they deserve recognition. [Little Rock should] embrace, broaden and expand a more diverse view of our heritage," said resident James Szenher.
Gloria Springer, granddaughter of the Rev. Horace Springer, made a similar comment.
"We'd just like to stake a claim like your ancestors did when they landed at Plymouth Rock. Just consider we have a history and our children need to know we have a history," she said.
Mayor Mark Stodola told the crowd after the vote that he doesn't want the name change to divide Little Rock.
"The issue of division has been mentioned. Let me just say, our city should pull together and this debate and discussion tonight should only make us all strong with mutual understanding and tolerance of all people, and I hope we can go forward and build trust with citizens in all of the city no matter color or race," he said.
Metro on 10/21/2015
Print Headline: Board's vote X's out Confederate in street's name