The movement for a street or highway dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. that began in Port Allen about 20 years ago came to fruition on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2018, Monday, Jan. 15 with the dedication of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Hwy., formerly known as LA Hwy. 1.
Port Allen is the first municipality in West Baton Rouge Parish to dedicate a street or building in honor of King, Mayor Richard Lee said at Monday’s ceremony.
About a year ago, Lee attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at Poplar Grove Baptist Church where he spoke with members who voiced concerns about the lack of a dedicated street in the city.
“It started a conversation,” Lee said. “Then we brought it to planning and zoning.”
This effort is one that just couldn’t come together in previous years, Lee said.
It started with the idea to rename Louisiana Avenue, which fell through 15 years ago Lee said. Last year, the idea changed to name 14th street from Louisiana Avenue to Avenue J, but there were not enough signatures. The last and final idea was to dedicate the LA Hwy. 1 corridor from Avenue G to Rosedale Road, which was settled with everyone and doesn’t require any businesses to change ads Lee said.
The Port Allen City Council approved the name change with a 3-2 vote in 2017. State Legislatures Edmond Jordan and Ed Price took the ball from there Lee said. Gov. John Bel Edwards approved and signed the proclamation during the summer of 2017.
Jordan presented the proclamation at Monday’s ceremony. The dedication of the highway on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2018 is a proper honor, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination Jordan said.
Twenty years is far too long, Rev. Garrett Brown, president of the WBR chapter of the NAACP said, noting that many U.S. cities dedicated streets and highways the same year of King’s assassination.
Some members of the crowd picketed, boycotted and fought during the Civil Rights era and many remember a time when black people could not get a job on what is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Hwy. Brown said.
“My grandma always said He may not come when you want,” Brown said. “But He’s always on time.”