John C. Calhoun’s name will remain on a prominent Augusta roadway after an effort to remove it failed again Tuesday.
Commissioner Bill Fennoy, whose district includes the community bisected by the John C. Calhoun Expressway, made his second push to remove the name last week by requesting it be named the “Trump-Calhoun Expressway.”
Fennoy said he made the request to draw a comparison between the pro-slavery, 19th-century South Carolina statesman and the president. Commissioner Ben Hasan made a resulting motion to name it Veterans Highway, for the area’s many military veterans.
Augusta University associate professor John Hayes addressed the commission in favor of the name change, saying local leaders aren’t bound by past political decisions and that signs and symbols do matter.
He used an example of two children, one black and one white, learning about Calhoun’s philosophy in a history class.
“Imagine an African-American child growing up in Harrisburg and realizing, yes, that’s the same John C. Calhoun for whom the expressway is named,” Hayes said.
Meanwhile a white child living in National Hills also learned about Calhoun and saw the familiar road named in his honor, he said.
“That’s the most basic and most dangerous lesson that white supremacy tries to teach, that that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Hayes said. “It’s incumbent on political leadership to say, ‘no, it’s not.’”
Fennoy said during a recent trip he traveled on highways honoring veterans in Burke County, Statesboro and Jacksonville, Fla. He made a motion to draft a resolution asking the Legislature to change the name of the road, a state route that was named locally in 1966, to Veterans Expressway, and Hasan seconded it.
The motion failed 3-4-1, with Fennoy, Hasan and Commissioner Dennis Williams voting in favor. Commissioners Andrew Jefferson, Grady Smith and Sean Frantom and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis, who presided over Tuesday’s meeting in Mayor Hardie Davis’ absence, voted against it. Commissioner Sammie Sias abstained from voting. Commissioners Marion Williams and Wayne Guilfoyle were absent Tuesday.
Fennoy said after the meeting he will not drop the matter and will likely request to change the name again toward the end of March or first of April.