At-large Metro Councilman Jerry Maynard is considering sponsoring legislation that would re-name a major downtown thoroughfare, perhaps Fifth Avenue North, after Martin Luther King Jr.
Maynard, the council’s only African-American at-large member, said Tennessee cities such as Chattanooga, Clarksville and Knoxville all have streets named after the revered civil rights leader. Nashville, despite its historically significant sit-ins during the spring of 1960 and its role in Freedom Rides one year later, currently lacks a roadway with King’s name.
“Nashville is one of the few major Southern cities in the nation that does not have a major thoroughfare that runs through downtown that is named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Maynard said.
“I’m in the preliminary stages of looking at re-naming one of our major thoroughfares in honor of not only Dr. Martin Luther King, but also to commemorate and celebrate the civil rights movement here in Nashville.”
Maynard confirmed one street he’s looking at is downtown’s Fifth Avenue. In 1960, the block of Fifth between Union and Church streets served as the center of Nashville’s sit-in movement, with blacks staging protests at lunch counters inside establishments such as Walgreen’s, Woolworth, S.H. Kress and elsewhere. Mocked by white hecklers, protestors were removed by police against their will.
“Fifth Avenue is a major thoroughfare, and it’s also important historically,” Maynard said. “It’s where the sit-ins took place. That is a major thoroughfare that would be very appropriate to be re-named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Maynard, who is up for re-election in August, said he’s unsure of the length of a downtown corridor he would propose being named after King. He also said he’s still weighing the appropriate form of legislation, adding that he plans to discuss the matter with Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors and other council members. He has no timeframe.
“The timeframe is based on my ability to talk with my fellow council members, the vice mayor, the business community, to talk to neighborhood organizations and to talk to the community about it,” he said.
Of note, Nashville is home to Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School.