Virginia Beach to memorialize boulevard for Martin Luther King Jr. despite clashing public opinion

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at an anti-Vietnam War rally at the University of Minnesota in 1967.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at an anti-Vietnam War rally at the University of Minnesota in 1967. (Wikimedia Commons)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Beach will memorialize a civil rights icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner by dedicating one of the busiest roadways in his name.

City council agreed Tuesday to dedicate Virginia Beach Boulevard in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. in a unanimous vote during its formal session.

Soon, crews will install signs in his name on traffic signals at Virginia Beach Boulevard’s intersections at Atlantic Avenue, Birdneck Road, Independence Boulevard and Newtown Road.

Before city council made the decision, the possibility to dedicate the roadway received mixed reviews from the public.

The Beach held a virtual town hall in December asking residents for their input about the dedication. The results showed that 54 percent of its 454 participants voted against it.

At city council’s meeting Tuesday, one man asked for the resolution to be removed from the agenda.

“Do not name anything in Virginia Beach after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At this stage, it would be an insult,” George Mimms, president of Seatack Community Civic League, said. “We are nowhere close to what Dr. King stood for … Virginia Beach is the only city in Southside Hampton Roads that has never had an African American circuit court judge.”

The dedication received positive public reaction, too.

“You are in a defining moment in Virginia Beach history to transform, to unite our city, community and youth,” Ronald Taylor said to city council at a formal session in March. “To dedicate Virginia Beach Boulevard to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would reflect great credit upon this leadership and this body.”

A local high school student gave support to the dedication and said any roadway memorialized in King’s name would be a good thing.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader, visionary and believer,” D’Kyra Andrews Graham, First Colonial High School senior, said. “Several cities have had a street named after him, and being that Virginia Beach is the city that stands for equality and fights against injustice, what a better way to represent this?”

 

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