Following a summer of racial tension and civil unrest in Virginia’s capital, the City of Richmond is continuing its efforts to remove or change public honors related to the Confederacy.
On Monday night, the Richmond City Council voted to adopt an ordinance renaming a portion of the Jefferson Davis Highway, otherwise known as U.S. Route 1, to the Richmond Highway.
All nine members of the council voted in favor of the name change without any opposition to the decision. Vice President Chris Hilbert was the only member to offer comment before the vote took place.
“I’m very proud to sponsor this legislation, it should have been done a while ago,” Hilbert said during the meeting. “When we had the discussion earlier, I’d indicated that these statues, and now were talking about streets, should have never been in the public square in the first place.”
Hilbert added: “I’m glad to see that we’re moving forward in changing this name.”
Named to honor Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, the highway spans from Arlington to the state’s southern border with North Carolina. The council’s move only renames the stretch of road located within city limits, starting from the intersection with Hull Street and ending near the intersection of Walmsley Boulevard in Richmond’s southside.
Back in the Summer, when protests over the death of George Floyd were still happening in the state capital, Richmond NAACP chapter President James Minor called for the city to remove the highway name.
“[Jefferson Davis] doesn’t have the right to be up there anymore. His time is up,” Minor said, according to CBS 6; adding, “Justice comes where we can put up new names, honorary street names, of black folks who helped pave the way.”
The next steps are to switch the signs along the roadway to reflect the new name, but a timeline for when that work will begin is not known as of yet. In terms of the fiscal impact, city officials estimate it will cost $40,000 to make and install updated street signs.
Don Blake, a director of the Virginia Veterans Memorial Preservation Foundation, which works to protect and perpetuate memorials to Virginia’s veterans from any military conflict, said he did not oppose the decision, but thought it was a result of public pressure.
“On a personal level, I’m disappointed to see the [highway] name be changed, it’s been that name all my life and even before I was born,” Blake told The Virginia Star. “However, I understand the public sentiment and the pressure upon the elected members of Richmond City Council to change the name.”
Blake added that he believed it was a minority of the public pushing for the change, but did say he liked the new name for the stretch of highway.
Richmond is not the first locality in Virginia to give the Jefferson Davis Highway a new name. Arlington and Prince William counties as well as the City of Alexandria have already made the change, also deciding on Richmond Highway as the alternative name.
The decision by the council is the latest in a series of moves by the city to distance itself from the Confederacy. Almost all city-owned Confederate statues have been taken down, the Robert E. Lee statue will be removed pending an appeal in a legal case and the city council voted to change the name of Confederate Avenue to Laburnum Park Boulevard.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Jefferson Davis Highway” by Jud McCranie. CC BY-SA 4.0.