Austin City Council renames Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue in concert with national trend

Many well known Austin assets are under analysis for name changes after an assessment by the city's Equity Office. Earlier this year, Austin approved name changes for Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue.

Many well known Austin assets are under analysis for name changes after an assessment by the city's Equity Office. Earlier this year, Austin approved name changes for Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue.

Azie Morton Road and William Holland Avenue will replace Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue, respectively, following an Austin City Council vote to rename the street names considered by many to honor members of the Confederacy.

The violent Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017 to oppose the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue inspired a national reckoning to reconsider monuments of Confederate leaders. Almost immediately, Austin City Council began discussions to rename the two streets.

After eight months of finding suitable replacement names and seeking approval from the emergency response and transportation department, Austin City Council approved the name changes on Thursday.

Azie Morton Road

Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army during the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865. For the name change, the city landed on Azie Morton Road. Azie Taylor Morton, an Austinite and graduate of Huston-Tillotson University who lived between 1936 and 2003, was the first female and first and only African-American to serve as Treasurer of the United States. Morton also served locally as an educator and, at the end of her life, with the Austin Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.

The name change will affect 289 property owners along nearly three-quarters-of-a-mile stretch between Barton Springs Road and Melridge Place. In a survey sent out to property owners, 45 objected to the name change and 20 supported it. Some property owners objected to the change because of the length of the name, others felt it was entirely unnecessary and would be expensive to change for individual property owners.

William Holland Avenue 

To replace Jeff Davis Avenue, the city chose to honor William Holland, an African-American born into slavery in 1840. After his father, a white man, purchased his freedom, Holland fought in the Union Army and later taught in Travis County schools. Holland served as a Texas state representative, county commissioner and played a crucial role in establishing the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth in 1887, located on Bull Creek Road between 38th and 45th streets. He later served as the institute’s superintendent.

The name change will affect 370 property owners along half-mile stretch between Burnet Road and West Koenig Lane. In a similar survey of property owners, 38 objected to the name change and 20 supported it. In the survey response, some property owners questioned whether Jeff Davis Avenue actually referred to the former president of the Confederacy and also voiced concerns over the name’s length and inconvenience involved with switching the street name.

Tens of people spoke in favor of the name changes on Thursday, though some objected. Speakers included Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion and former Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole. Cole, an African-American, told council to not underestimate the impact of this action.

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, who represents the area of the city where William Holland Avenue is, said Holland was an extraordinary individual and expressed pride in the renaming of the street.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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