Local News

Chapel Hill Officially Unveils Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Posted May 9, 2005

— On Sunday, the Town of Chapel Hill officially unveiled new street signs to mark the renaming of Airport Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

And for some, the renaming of one of the town's busiest roads made Mother's Day extra special.

"He (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) was a great and honorable man who crossed all color barriers," said Velma Cooper, a lifelong Chapel Hill resident who shared the day with her mother, Katie Edwards. "I'm proud that my community -- black and white -- came together to honor him."

There were some who initially fought the changing of the street names.

Some business owners argued it would be too expensive to change the address on stationery and business cards. But a compromise was made; and in the end, the words Historic Airport Road would appear underneath signs denoting Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

"It was a compromise between the opponents and the people who supported it," Jesse Gibson said. "And I think it will do a lot to promote race relations in this city."

The unveiling ceremony also marked a historic visit. Exactly 45 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Chapel Hill.

Joe Straley saw King speak then. He said King's words still ring true today.

"We have come a long, long way," Straley said. "But we've got a long, long way to go."

Velma Cooper was a just a little girl when King made his visit to Chapel Hill. But, she said, King's visit meant the world to her mother's generation, and she's glad she's able to share that feeling now with her mother and daughter.

Her daughter, Alyssa Cooper, helped entertain the crowd by singing.

"This is the best Mother's Day present," Velma Cooper said.

After the unveiling ceremony, the crowd marched together up the new Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a party at the Hargraves Community Center.

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