The Rev. George Edwards of Friendship Baptist Church has asked Lewes officials to consider renaming Fourth Street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Dr. King was not just a person for one race nor one gender, nor did he look at people as being rich or poor,” said Edwards at the March 20 city council meeting. “He believed in all people being treated equally.”
Edwards presented Mayor Ted Becker with a petition signed by more than 100 people in favor of renaming the street. Edwards said more than 700 towns and cities nationwide have named a street in honor of King.
Edwards said Fourth Street is significant because it is an area where many minorities and African-Americans have lived during Lewes’ history.
Becker said renaming a street is a difficult task that is out of the city’s control. Street names must be approved by Sussex County’s 911 addressing; Becker said he has been in contact with staff to see if a name change is possible.
Even if it is possible, city officials said they would be hesitant to rename an established street.
“It has a tremendous impact on residences along that street,” Becker said. “Everyone would need to notify all the people who mail to them, whether it’s creditors or lenders or whomever.”
Becker suggested the city consider maintaining the Fourth Street name, but add Martin Luther King Jr. Street honorifically.
Councilman Rob Morgan was supportive of the idea.
“In Washington, D.C., and in New York, they’ve got some really handsome street signs commemorating famous and worthy people,” he said. “The streets bear two designations - the official designation, but also the name that commemorates a person.”
That option would accomplish the request without inconveniencing the people who live along Fourth Street, he said.
Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait, who worked in New York City for many years, said he’s against adding a honorable title to Fourth Street.
“I always found it confusing,” he said.
King is definitely worth recognition, he said, but he’d like to see other options brought to the table.
“I’m not enthusiastic about changing the name of a street. I have to be honest,” he said. “The names have been there for awhile, and Fourth Street is a major street.”
Edwards said change is never without opposition.
“I don’t think there’s a town in any state that’s wanted to do something that didn’t have [someone] who has a problem with it,” he said.
Becker said the city will continue to investigate a possible street name change, but he urged Edwards and the Friendship Baptist Church congregation to consider alternative ways to commemorate King.