Citing a chance to honor the contributions of African Americans both nationally and locally, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore presented a proposal at Tuesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session to rename the downtown street known as the Third Avenue Extension.
Moore and City Administrator Eric Stuckey drew up a resolution that asks aldermen to approve changing the name of Third Avenue Extension to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and the connecting section of roadway to The Hill property to ANC Williams Way.
There are approximately 900 streets in cities across the country named in honor of King, according to Moore’s presentation.
“Franklin can join these cities in providing a fitting recognition to Dr. King and his work to fight discrimination and promote equality in our nation," he said.
The roadway that would serve as the entrance to the neighborhood that is being planned for the redevelopment of The Hill property would be named for Williams, a lifelong Williamson County resident who was born into slavery in 1844 in Spring Hill. He was sold to a family at age 6 and moved to Franklin, where he later opened the first African American business in downtown Franklin while still enslaved.
He operated a shoe repair business on the square to fix the boots of occupying Union soldiers. After attaining his freedom in 1865, he purchased a lot on Second Avenue in 1867 and then another lot where he constructed a building and opened a general merchandise store around 1870.
The Third Avenue Extension was constructed several years ago and stretches from North Margin through the city-owned Bicentennial Park to Fifth Avenue North.
“There is some confusion about what Third Avenue Extension is to some people and where it is,” Moore explained. “I don’t know that renaming it completely solves that problem, but it offers us the opportunity to continue to tell the Fuller Story.”
No one disagreed with Moore’s proposal, but Alderman-at-Large Brandy Blanton suggested that the name of the late Tommy Murdic be considered for the section across Fifth Avenue North. Murdic, who died in March 2015, was a vital part of the African American Heritage Society, was elected to the Williamson County Board of Commissioners, and served on both city and county boards.
Blanton said that while Williams is indeed an appropriate person to honor with a street named after him, she pointed out the recognition he’ll be given with the planned restoration of historic Williams-Merrill Home at 264 Natchez St.
“If we look at where we are as a generation,” Blanton said, “almost everything is named after people we don’t know but we read about. Tommy’s tentacles and roots go through this community. A lot of people still remember his contributions and his championship for racial reconciliation. I offer it as an opportunity to be a little bit more current.”
Vice Mayor Bev Burger, Ward 1, took Blanton’s suggestion a step further and recommended possibly waiting until later to name a street honoring King.
“My preference would be to lean toward the two local people,” she said. “Maybe we hold off naming the road for Martin Luther King for another opportunity, and consider ANC Williams and Tommy Murdic.”
Several other items were on Tuesday’s work session agenda, and the BOMA meeting followed. Click here to view the meetings on the city’s Facebook page.