Mocksville Should Grant MLK Request

Published 9:41 am Thursday, August 17, 2017

In stark contrast to the over-heated, violent protests in some other towns last week, a group of Mocksville citizens politely asked the town council to name a street in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The town board needs to make that happen.

The group suggested renaming Depot Street, which has historically included a number of businesses owned by prominent black families. That request stirred objections at the board meeting because of the inconvenience to current residents and businesses. The inconvenience is not imagined. In this age of Google Maps, FedEx deliveries and GPS routings, a street change can befuddle everyone.

If not Depot, the chosen street should be close to downtown and prominent without causing a major inconvenience. The town might look no further than its front lawn. Clement Street has very few road front addresses, and most prominent is the Town Hall.

Instead of tearing down statues and erasing history as other towns are doing, Mocksville should find ways to honor its more recent past. The debate about Depot Street has created some good ideas:

• Honor the outstanding contribution to peaceful school desegregation and racial harmony during the 1960s and 1970s made by one of our own, principal, teacher and coach Julius Suiter. Every town of size has a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. On a local scale, Julius Suiter’s life has embodied King’s words. Two generations of children have benefitted from his guidance and example, including me.

• Do something to remember the late Avery Foster, the first black sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina and later a Mocksville policeman who patrolled downtown for many years when other towns, racially, were on edge.

There are others, black and white, in Davie County whose historical contribution should be remembered by historical markers. We have markers for the Big Three: Daniel Boone, Col. Tom Ferebee and Hinton Rowan Helper, but there should be others for 19th and 20th century residents, World War II, Korean or Vietnam war heros. I would choose the entomologist who prowled South American jungles, Dr. Elizabeth McMahan, now buried near her childhood home at Pino in the same cemetery as Col. Ferebee. She has two termites named for her. In her last years, she wrote children’s books set in her Farmington home, and she dutifully entertained Davie County students enrolled at her UNC-Chapel Hill.

There must be other events and people of note.

Lord Cornwallis marched 1,000 British Redcoats through the county in 1781 en route to Shallowford and eventually Guilford Courthouse. A new generation should know he coined name “Pudding Ridge.” Historic markers help preserve those rare gems of history.

Thomas Dewey spoke on the courthouse square during his ill-fated campaign for president in 1948. According to legend, industrial moguls Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford stopped for water while motoring through town.

The outlaw hunt of 1975 made national news.

Rather than pull down and destroy historic tributes, it’s time for a careful examination of local history to honor and preserve the contributions from our heritage.

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On the same historical note, Clemmons reader Martha Rowe frets that I have inadvertently alerted the political correctness police into erasing the name “Clingman’s Dome” which honors Huntsville native Thomas L. Clingman. I noted last week that he was a Civil War Confederate general.

Sanctimonious nitwits are now back-dating their new-found morality to besmirch our great-great-grandfathers. Self-righteousness is a disease running amok.

— Dwight Sparks