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Ahoskie Council approves MLK Drive

AHOSKIE – Nearly six months in the making, it appears the town of Ahoskie will rename a street in tribute of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Make that two streets in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

By a unanimous decision, Ahoskie Town Council members voted here Tuesday to rename Rhue Street (north of Main Street) and Catherine Creek Road (north of New Ahoskie Baptist Church) as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

That decision came on the heels of a scheduled public hearing where two local citizens voiced their opposition.

“No disrespect to Dr. King, but I am opposed to this,” said Marilyn Williams, a Catherine Creek Road resident. “I’m not opposed to Dr. King, I think he should be honored, but after speaking with several others, we feel we should not destroy one part of history to honor another part.”

Williams went on to say that she realized another road proposal was Memorial Drive. However, she pointed out the burden that would place on the numerous businesses forced to change all their stationary, signage and billing materials. She then suggested naming the bridge on Memorial Drive in honor of Dr. King.

In relation to the financial burden placed on businesses, Ahoskie businessman James “Duck” Harrell Jr. said he did not favor renaming Rhue Street where his business, Jernigan Oil and Propane, is located.

“We’re not in opposition of honoring Dr. King,” Harrell noted. “However, we feel having to change all of our printed data and materials that goes out to over 1,000 customers will put a hardship on our business.”

Currently, there are three businesses on Rhue Street, including Jernigan Oil and Propane.

Apparently, the opposition failed to affect the council’s decision as Ronald Gatling motioned for the streets to be renamed. O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. seconded the motion and it passed without objection.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Town Manager Tony Hammond said the council’s decision will now be forwarded to North Carolina DOT, which maintains both Rhue Street and Catherine Creek Road. Hammond said he was unsure of what DOT would request from this point forward. He said their request may include the town adopting a resolution to officially make their intentions known.

The debate of naming one of Ahoskie’s streets in honor of Dr. King first surfaced at a September, 2006 meeting of the Ahoskie Town Council. Since, it has been discussed on numerous occasions at ensuing meetings.

In November, the town of Ahoskie mailed letters each property owner – business and residential – on Memorial Drive. In those letters, town officials sought public response to rename Memorial Drive in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the January Town Council meeting, Hammond reported that 139 individuals replied, of which 88 were against the renaming proposal while only one was in favor. The remaining 50 provided no response.

Other suggestions for renaming a street in honor of Dr. King included the entire length of Catherine Creek Road, No Man’s Land Park on Main Street, First Street (NC 561), the next new street to be constructed and the park now planned within the FEMA buyout area.