Hampton City Council chooses name for Ft. Monroe Bridge

Posted at 5:32 PM, Mar 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-23 19:30:40-04

Hampton, Va. - City council members in Hampton have chosen a name for the bridge that connects the city to the historic Ft. Monroe.

The bridge will now be known as "The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge in Honor of Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory and James Townsend."

Council members were hoping to bring the community together at tonight’s city council meeting.

Controversy started when council voted unanimously last month to name the un-named bridge after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sources close to the bridge controversy said city council tried to offer residents a compromise at the meeting.

“I think that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man,” said Hampton resident Kelly Brezinski. “I think that he should be honored in every way, but I think when it comes to the Ft. Monroe bridge, crossing from Hampton to Ft. Monroe, that it should be more focused on Hampton’s history [and] the freedom of the slaves.”

Some residents say council should name something else after Dr. King, and stick to Ft. Monroe’s history when it comes to naming the bridge instead.

“I grew up learning about Ft. Monroe’s history,” said Brezinski. “Many field trips, lots of military friends growing up that lived on the base. We got daily tours, stories of ghosts and things. None of that is relative to Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“I don’t care so much about it, but if I were to [choose], I would say Fort Monroe, just because there is so much history there,” said Brooke Moore, a Hampton resident.

“I wouldn’t say I have a preference, but I would say it is a historical [landmark], and I feel with whatever history states that we should [follow],” said Collin Chambers, who grew up in Hampton.

Those against naming the bridge after Dr. King have been clear that this is not a race issue for them.

“I’ve seen it become divisive,” said Hampton resident Randy Holtman. “Some people are taking it to that angle, and that really worries some people because that was not the intent to start with.”

Residents are expect to fill council chambers in protest of the new name, a name which they feel they never had a say in.

Randy Holtman, Hampton resident: “[They were] upset with the way it happened, and the way it went through without people knowing, without the knowledge,” said Holtman of the petitioners. “Not outraged that it was being named something else, but that it was being pushed through without them knowing.”

Council is still waiting on the rights to use Dr. King’s name, a process which is approved by the King Center out of Atlanta.

We reached out to council members. Only one member returned our calls, but declined to be interviewed prior to tonight’s meeting.

Related links: NAACP members speak in support of naming Ft. Monroe Bridge after MLK