A North Texas man wants to rename sections of two local freeways that bear the name of a past Democrat Dallas mayor who was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan. He kickstarted a campaign to sway city officials into renaming the roadways to honor former President Barack Obama.
“African Americans, Hispanics, everyone, whites, should be insulted that we have a freeway named after a former Klansman,” said James Dunn, a former teacher and black activist, according to CBS DFW. He started an online petition this week, reportedly, in response to the recent violence that broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Certain portions of I-30 and I-35 in Dallas bear the name of Klansman R.L. Thornton, a Dallas banker and successful businessman who served as the city’s mayor from 1953 to 1961. According to the Texas Historical Association (TSHA) Thornton was also “a Democrat, a Mason, and a Methodist.”
The historical nonprofit organization chronicles Texas history since 1897. They noted that journalists called Thornton “Mr. Dallas,” a nickname garnered because of his high-profile civic involvement that included serving as president of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the State Fair of Texas, during his career.
Dunn’s petition, while it appeals to lawmakers to “remove the name of the ex-Dallas Mayor and Ku Klux Klan member R.L. Thornton” from stretches of these interstates, only refers to Thornton once, omitting that the Klansman mayor was a Democrat. However, the petition’s paragraphs gush over the former president and repeatedly slam the current commander-in chief.
In his appeal, Dunn asserts that the nation “is faced with those who want to wipe away the legacy of the nation’s first African-American president.” Among its many claims, it states that when Obama first took office in 2008 the “United States was on the brink of collapse” and people “who could not afford health care were dying of curable ailments.” It describes Obama as a “God-send for an ailing country” which he says was “prosperous” under the former Democrat president.
According to the petitioner, when Obama left office, homebuilders and realtors could not keep up with high consumer demands, auto sales hit record levels, “black citizens were being released from terribly unfair prison sentences,” and 31 million “citizens who needed health care had health care.”
The petition then shifts gears, ranting about current U.S. President Donald Trump. It calls his administration a “regime” that insults our allies, Mexicans, Muslims, non-believers, Israel, and others. The online appeal alleges the leftist narrative that “Trump’s closest advisors are white nationalists” and KKK members out “to destroy” Obama’s legacy, among its litany of accusations. Then, the petition closes by pledging to work towards getting Obama’s name on roadways throughout the United States and countries around the world.
Dunn told CBS DFW that the “mayor and council are going to have to get a spine and understand that we in Dallas must show that we are not going to stand by and tolerate racist symbols, racist imagery.” He added: “People say that this is just remembering our history. If you have a street named after R.L. Thornton, that’s not remembering history, that’s celebrating history.”
The local activist said he intends to present the petition’s signatures to the Dallas City Council and its Democrat Mayor Mike Rawlings next month, although the online petition lists April 2018 as its target date. It seeks 50,000 signatures. As of press time, it had 47.
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