- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2000

RICHMOND The Richmond City Council last night voted unanimously to rename two city bridges that honored Confederate Gens. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart after prominent black leaders instead.

The council voted 7-0 with two abstentions last night to rename the bridges in honor of Samuel Tucker and Curtis Holt. Mr. Tucker was a lawyer with the Richmond firm of Hill, Tucker and Marsh and litigated many cases across Virginia to implement desegregation in the face of massive resistance. Mr. Holt was a civic leader best known for fighting the city's annexation efforts that diluted blacks' voting strength.

The idea to change the bridge names came from Richmond Mayor Timothy M. Kaine and Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin, a councilman who objected to including a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee portrait on a Richmond flood wall. The portrait was set afire on Lee-Jackson-King Day.

Mr. Kaine said there already are three or four other public spaces each that bear the names of Jackson and Stuart.

"A lot of these names were affixed at a time when the City Council was not keen on naming things after civil rights leaders," Mr. Kaine said. "I'm interested in telling the story of the whole city."

Those who favor the changed names also say that the neighborhoods surrounding the bridges are predominantly black, and that the names of the bridges don't reflect the region.

But the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a nationwide heritage group, said renaming the bridges is part of a concerted effort to erase recognition of Southern, Confederate and American heritage. Members of the Virginia chapter gathered at the Stonewall Jackson Bridge yesterday to decry the name changes.

"The attempt to rename the bridges does very little to bring people together," said Bragg Bowling, commander of the Richmond Brigade of the Sons.

Mr. Bowling said the decision sets the precedent for the names to have to be changed again in the future if the neighborhood composition changes. And he wondered whether there would be an uproar if a road in a white area was named after Martin Luther King.

The Sons also are upset over the procedures used to pursue the name change. After Mr. El-Amin's protest of the Lee mural, Mr. Kaine suggested forming an ad-hoc committee to advise on historical interpretation matters. But that committee has not met and never considered the name-change proposal.

"Our organization is a heritage one. All we want is for our part of history to be preserved," Mr. Bowling said.

The name change is the latest controversy over the place of Confederate history in Richmond, which was the South's capital but is now a predominantly black city.

Several years ago, heritage groups and some black residents objected to putting a statue of Richmond native Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue with Confederate heroes. Last year, when the portrait of Lee went up on a flood wall in the city, Mr. El-Amin objected and had the portrait removed. It was later substituted with one of Lee in civilian clothes. And at the request of the governor, both houses of the state General Assembly have passed separate bills to move Lee-Jackson Day and create a sole holiday for King, to be celebrated on the same day as the federal celebration.

Richmond police still haven't arrested anyone for the mural firebombing, but Lee's portrait will be replaced, paid for by a coalition of civic activists.

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