Tempe advisory committee to decide on renaming streets, parks named after KKK members

Tempe leaders say an advisory committee will look into renaming parks and streets named after former community leaders who were recently discovered to have been dues-paying members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The names were up for discussion Thursday night as the city council met. The meeting gave the go-ahead to take the next step, possibly changing the names. 

The matter will likely be studied for several more months.

The names in question are Hudson Drive, Hudson Lane, Laird Street and Hudson, Harelson and Redden Parks.

The city’s research showed that three schools also were named for members of the Klan. Officials say they’ve notified Tempe Elementary School District leaders about the namesakes of Laird and Hudson elementary schools and Gililland Middle School.

City officials say the school district will be handling the decision to rename the schools, but the city will be working collaboratively with them.

"Together we can acknowledge the past and make purposeful decisions that reflect our community values of equality and anti-discrimination," City Manager Andrew Ching said in a news release.

A Klan chapter called Butte Klan No. 3 included many prominent Tempe residents in the 1920s, including mayors, council members, bankers and other power brokers, according to a memo prepared for the City Council. The city’s elementary schools were segregated, as was a swimming pool at Tempe Beach Park.

Another prominent Tempe figure was known for fighting the Klan. Col. James McClintock worked to expose the Klan and was the foreman of a federal grand jury investigating Klan violence, according to the city memo. He’s the namesake for McClintock Drive — one of Tempe’s major north-south arteries — and McClintock High School.

City officials are contacting descendants of the former Klan members "so they feel invited to be part of the conversations," according to the city news release.

Kadienne Wolnik, who lives in Chandler, says, "I don't like hearing about that. I think the name should be changed if that is true."

Isaiah Ford of Phoenix says, "Just, you know, human race. So definitely important to keep up the name change consistent."

Meeting to discuss possible name changes held

Along Hudson Street in Hudson Manor, families have lived there for six to 60 years. Some have past connections to the Hudson family.

Others named their children or pets Hudson over the years.

Recently, they got wind they may be getting a new address, but without ever moving.

Tom Brown lives on Hudson Street and says, "I was in shock coming home from work and then everyone wants to change my address, I don’t even know what to think."

Chris Gray also lives on Hudson Street.

"I looked it up, I looked it up and now I’m seeing two different names of the people who started the neighborhood. And I would just like to get down to the bottom of that before we pull the trigger on changing names," Gray said.

The city of Tempe is considering the name changes after the connection was uncovered by the Tempe History Museum.

The news comes at a time when controversial statues, like flags and signs, are being removed and replaced across the country. For people who live on a street with a past, suddenly called into question, a name change comes with many modern-day complications.

Like business addresses and licenses.

An advisory committee will be formed, made up of residents from several neighborhoods, schools and minority groups.

The committee will determine if the name changes are appropriate for the city’s naming policy approved in 2017, which would likely include reimbursing residents for costs that come with a name change.

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