HAMPTON, Va.— Confederate controversy is getting the spotlight in Hampton.
City council members voted Wednesday night to approve a resolution to rename Magruder Boulevard to Neil Armstrong Parkway, and some people aren’t happy about it. According to the city manager, the renaming will be ceremonial and will formally take effect on July 1, 2021.
Magruder Boulevard takes its name from John Magruder, a colonel in the Confederate army, but Mayor Donnie Tuck says that has nothing to do with why the city is renaming the three miles of road.
The city is proposing the change to honor NASA Langley Research Center, which is located off Magruder Boulevard and Commander Shepard Boulevard — a nod honoring astronaut Alan Shepard.
Mayor Tuck says Hampton is trying to honor an American hero and their ties with NASA Langley Research Center— nothing more.
“Last July I believe, I received an email from a resident of Hampton who also is an employee of NASA Langley Research Center that said this is the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon - 'Wouldn’t it be great to tell people that the way you get to NASA Langley Research Center is you take Neil Armstrong Way to Commander Shepard Boulevard?' - and we thought it was a great idea,” says Tuck.
The mayor expects the renaming will be approved unanimously, even if some people in the community are against it.
“There’s always going to be individuals who feel that something is being lost or something is being taken, but that’s not our intent in this process,” says Tuck.
The city will need to make and install 25 new signs and pay VDOT to install three overhead signs on the interstate. The city estimates the total cost to be around $200,000.
“I’ve heard some people say that it’s erasing history. I’ve also heard that it’s going to cost too much money, but to me, it’s on the right side of history,” says Gaylene Kanoyton, President of the Hampton Branch of the NAACP.
Kanoyton says the renaming will honor an honorable man and notes that history-making African Americans like NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson also have ties to the achievements Armstrong made.
“At the end of the day, we have museums. They [people opposed to the renaming] can put those signs up in museums."
The city says the 11 business will also absorb the cost to change their letterheads and business cards to Neil Armstrong Parkway, but says they’re all on board.
Tuck says the city has not spent any time trying to look at other roads named with ties to the Confederacy and notes that’s not their focus moving forward.
The plan is to start using the name Neil Armstrong Parkway now, but it will be ceremonial until the change is official on July 1, 2021.