At first it seemed that Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy’s resolution to rename Calhoun Expressway would die in committee last week until Commissioner Andrew Jefferson breathed new life into it with a motion to send it before the full commission for a vote Tuesday.
Paine College professor and historian Mallory Millender, who spoke eloquently in favor of changing the name of the road named for John C. Calhoun, said Calhoun was a white supremacist who said slavery was not a necessary evil, only necessary. Calhoun, a former U.S. vice president, secretary of state and senator from South Carolina, died in 1850.
Millender said not changing the name indicates city leaders either agree with Calhoun’s pro-slavery values, don’t know what they were or don’t care.
Jefferson’s motion passed 3-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis and Commissioner Dennis Williams joining him in voting for it. Commissioner Marion Williams abstained. No word on whether Jefferson plans to change his name.
All Roads Lead to Augusta, but Can Anybody Find Their Way Here If They Change the Street Signs? If Calhoun Expressway is renamed, will Washington Road be next? After all, our first president, George Washington, became a slave owner at age 11 when his father died, according to the George Washington Mount Vernon website. He also bought at least eight more slaves as a young adult and seven more in 1755, including four men, two women and a child.
At the time of his death, the Mount Vernon enslaved population consisted of 317 people. However, Washington freed his slaves in his 1799 will.
Remnants of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway, named for the president of the Confederacy, periodically generate controversy, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s website. The highway was a planned transcontinental highway conceived in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It began in Washington, D.C., and extended south and west to San Diego, Calif. Part of it runs through Augusta as U.S. Highway 1.
“Fighting Joe”: Then there’s Wheeler Road, named for Gen. Joseph Wheeler, who was born in Augusta. He was a cavalry general in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War. He was later a general in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. He served seven terms in Congress. A statue of Wheeler is in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, representing the state of Alabama.
John Brown Gordon: And what will the folks who want to rename roads and bridges that remind them of the old South say about Fort Gordon being named for a Confederate general suspected of being the head of Georgia’s Ku Klux Klan?
Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon was one of Robert E. Lee’s most trusted generals by the end of the Civil War, according to Wikipedia.
“He was a firm opponent of Reconstruction and endorsed measures to preserve white-dominated society, including restrictions on freedmen and the use of violence,” the Wikipedia article says. “Gordon was thought to be the titular head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, but the organization was so secretive that his role was never proven conclusively. During congressional testimony in 1871, Gordon denied any involvement with the Klan, but did acknowledge he was associated with a secret ‘peace police’ organization whose sole purpose was the ‘preservation of peace.’”
Clement Evans: The community of Evans in Columbia County is possibly named for Confederate Brig. Gen. Clement A. Evans.
When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Evans resigned from the Legislature and joined the Confederate army as a private, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
“Wounded five times (twice severely) he rose to command the Thirty-first Georgia Infantry (Bartow Guards) in May 1862. He fought in the Shenandoah campaign and participated in nearly every major battle of the Army of Northern Virginia.
“While surveying the aftermath of the battle at Fredericksburg in December 1862, Evans felt divinely inspired to teach the lessons of humility, brotherly love and Christian forbearance. He promised God and himself that he would enter the ministry after the war. Keeping his promise, Evans began a twenty-six-year career as a Methodist minister in 1866 by applying to the Annual Methodist Conference for admission to the ministry. He served churches in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Cassville, Cedartown and Rome during his life.”
“A Change is Gonna Come”: Changing street names is nothing new in Augusta. Laney-Walker Boulevard was once Gwinnett Street, so named for Button Gwinnett, one of Augusta’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence. And Ninth Street is now James Brown Boulevard.
And don’t be surprised if one day, some commission tries to rename Augusta since it was named for Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, a white privileged female. And then there is Georgia … Oh well, this could go on for awhile.
He will be Missed: Condolences to the family of Duncan Johnson, who died Thursday. Johnson was president of Johnson Motor Co. for more than 40 years. He served on many boards in the community and the state and did many things to benefit Augusta that most people never knew about, according to one of his many friends.