Petition seeks street rename

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 13, 2003

Scott Flowers lives on George Wallace Drive and said the name of the street was one of the determining factors in his decisions to locate at his current address.

"When I moved back to Troy, the real estate agent was driving me around town and of all the places that I could have chosen, I chose George Wallace Drive on purpose," Flowers said. "I have a business and I wanted people up north to know where I was living. It was one of the things that swayed me. I wanted them to know my address was on George Wallace Drive."

Flowers holds strong feelings for the legendary former governor of Alabama and he is greatly upset by the prospect that the name of George Wallace may one day be removed from his home address.

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Council president Johnny Witherington confirmed Friday that a petition bearing 39 names requesting the city to redesignate the street Veterans’ Memorial Parkway was filed at City Hall, and that the matter will be on the agenda for the council’s April 22 meeting.

George Wallace Drive is a main artery in Troy. The intersection of George Wallace Drive and Highway 231 has been described as the busiest traffic intersection in town. The road runs past churches, Charles Henderson High School, the Alabama National Guard armory and Troy State University's football stadium. The road crosses Elm Street and continues up into the neighborhood commonly called "Crow Hill."

The proposal to change the name also requests Troy State University to rename one of its on-campus streets Wallace Drive in the family’s honor. It's not the first time the issue has come up.

A petition is being circulated to oppose the change, Flowers said.

"I support our veterans," Witherington said, "and I care about them deeply…but this is not an effort I’ll support."

"I’m honor-bound to continue to support that being named George Wallace Drive," Witherington said.

He cited the Wallace family’s long-standing ties to Troy and to Troy State University, and said he believed that once a building or a street was named, it shouldn’t be changed unless some disgrace came to the name.

"Gov. Wallace was employed by Troy State at one time," he said.

Council member Charles Meeks said that he was made aware of the petition to change the street’s name earlier last week, and the was contacted about signing it.

"I told them definitely not, I wasn’t interested and and didn’t support it…George Wallace and Ralph Adams were college roommates and he (Wallace) brought a tremendous amount of growth to Troy State.

"I didn’t think it would be doing the family right to change the name," he said.

Not all members of the City Council were as willing to talk about the proposal.

"It’s a decision that the citizens in that area are going to have to make," said Jose Henderson, who declined to take a side on the issue. "I want to look at their decision and not make a decision off the cuff. The people who live in that area are doing that and I'll look at it based on the merits of the petition."

Flowers, however, was upset enough about the proposed name change to call the Wallace family and inform them of the upcoming city council meeting.

"I spoke with George Wallace, Jr. and he was surprised and saddened."

However, Flowers said Wallace, Jr. would not be attending the meeting.

"He didn’t think it would be appropriate. I thought he’d be there to stand up for his family."

One of Alabama's best-known products, Wallace captured the imagination and hatred of people around the world during his political career in the 1950s and 1960s. He served four terms as governor, the last ending in 1987. His wife Lurleen served one year, 1967-1968, as governor.

Such a legacy made an impact on Alabamians who still revere the former governor. Flowers said Wallace was one of the more important people in American history.

"The Associated Press identified him as one of the most admired men of this country," Flowers said.

Flowers stressed the opposition to the name change should not be allowed to be spun as a slight to veterans.

"George Wallace was a veteran. He was a flight engineer who flew nighttime raids over Japan. This proposal to take his name off and to call it Veterans’ Memorial Parkway is wrong. I'm the commander of local American Legion. Nobody’s more for veterans than I am."

"If it ain’t broke, don't fix it. There was a reason his name was put on that road. Nothing has changed to take his name off. Nothing has surfaced to justify dishonoring him like this."

Will the meeting be crowded by Wallace supporters and opponents? Flowers isn't sure.

"I have not talked to my neighbors."

A spokesperson for TSU said he did not currently anticipate a formal presentation by TSU at the upcoming city council meeting.