ATLANTA -- Freedom Parkway may get a new name. It would be named “John Lewis Freedom Parkway,” if the city adopts a measure advanced by a task force formed to honor the 30-year congressman and civil rights figure.
John Lewis is an enduring Atlanta political figure, and a civil rights legend. Yet in a city that has not hesitated to re-name city streets to honor its many civil rights figures – the one figure lacking such an honor has been John Lewis.
"It’s a street that currently doesn’t have any residents on it," said city councilman Andre Dickens, speaking of Freedom Parkway, which juts east of downtown. "It can be named still 'Freedom Parkway, but potentially 'John Lewis Freedom Parkway.'"
Andre Dickens chairs the task force. He says it's among a half-dozen options, including a statue of Lewis outside City Hall. The group will continue to meet through December, Dickens says.
A generation ago, the project that eventually produced Freedom Parkway was perhaps the most controversial road project in Atlanta history.
When Lewis was a city councilman, he joined with thousands of angry residents who bitterly fought what was then called the Presidential Parkway project — originally slated to bulldoze scores of historic homes east of downtown Atlanta.
"That was going to be a highway going out to Stone Mountain. He fought, along with great residents in that area, to not divide up their neighborhoods with the highway," Dickens said.
Lewis and other opponents eventually forged a compromise that produced the shorter, slower highway now called Freedom Parkway.
"I think it’s a terrific opportunity to shine a light on one of the best individuals that our country has ever produced," Mayor Kasim Reed said Wednesday. He leaves office in January, shortly after the John Lewis task force's final scheduled meeting.