The Little Rock Planning Commission unanimously recommended Thursday that the city Board of Directors approve changing the name of Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard.
Anika Whitfield, petitioner for the name change from Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard in Little Rock, speaks to the Little Rock Planning Commission during its regular meeting Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.
Confederate Boulevard is a portion of a street and stretches a few blocks. Most of the roadway’s name was changed to Springer Boulevard in 1974 in honor of the Rev. Horace Springer, one of the first black property owners in the Granite Mountain area to which the road leads.
City records show that the portion that remains Confederate Boulevard was a compromise for business owners who didn’t want to change their addresses. Some of the same businesses objected to changing the name this time, saying it would cost them money to change their addresses on accounts and advertisements.
The two businesses that have been most vocal about their opposition to the name change — Burger House LLC and H.F. Scruggs Inc. — didn’t have representatives at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, where the request was approved in a 10-0 vote.
The matter will now go to the city board for final approval. Several board members already have indicated their support.
The name-change request came from community activist Anika Whitfield and Gloria Springer, granddaughter of Horace Springer.
Gloria Springer said she and other Granite Mountain residents have talked for years about getting the last remaining portion of Confederate Boulevard renamed, but that the Charleston, S.C., church shootings in June that left nine black church members dead inspired her, with Whitfield, to restart the effort.
Dylann Roof, the white suspect in the South Carolina shootings, is said to have indicated that the slayings were racially motivated. The deaths sparked a nationwide conversation about the use and meaning of the Confederate flag and name. It prompted the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds.
Four people in addition to Whitfield and Springer spoke in support of the Little Rock street name change at Thursday’s meeting, and two spoke against it.
Jay Clark spoke, passionately at times, against the change. He said the Southern states’ secession from the United States should be honored and that the Confederate soldiers were good men who fought with honor, dignity, courage and tenacity.
“I find it horribly disgusting that anybody would want to sully the good names of these people … they are true heroes,” Clark said.
He said that after the South Carolina killings, when an image of Roof holding a Confederate flag surfaced, “leftists, blacks and politicians immediately started attacking the symbols of the Southern culture.”
Planning Commissioner Craig Berry referred to Clark’s statement before the vote.
The “Southern culture stands larger than the Confederate symbol and still lives. It has not a thing to do with the Confederacy chapter, which is only three years in history and was a lost cause,” Berry said. The Civil War was fought from April 1861 to April 1865.
“It’s time for this to take place,” he added, referring to the street name change.
People who spoke in support of the renaming included state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who said the nation has advanced since the split of the country and that the street name change goes a long way toward the advancement of Little Rock.
It required 50 percent of property owners along Confederate Boulevard to sign a petition to get the name-change request before the Planning Commission. Of the 22 addresses on the street, 11 signatures were submitted.
The street runs to the Little Rock National Cemetery, where 640 Confederate soldiers are buried. Nearly 1,500 Union soldiers’ remains also are interred there.
Whitfield pointed out in her statement to the commission that no one in support of the name change spoke ill of Confederate soldiers.
Acadia Roher, who spoke in support of the change, said the city should be lifting up stories and people who fought racial oppression and that the story of the Confederacy belongs in museums and history books.
“This year, masses of people across the country have risen up to say we want a different kind of reality — one of equity and justice,” she said.
Print Headline: Drop ‘Confederate,’ LR planners advise