A street named after a Confederate general should be renamed, Vienna Town Council members agreed at a Jan. 10 work session, but the choice of its new name still is up in the air.
The impetus for the possible name change occurred in June 2020, when Historic Vienna Inc. (HVI) member De Armond “Dee Dee” Carter, a descendant of a prominent African-American family in Vienna, asked the Town Council to consider renaming Wade Hampton Drive, S.W.
The street’s name has existed since June 1961, when the Council changed the name of Lewis Street, S.W., as part of an amendment that also renamed a pair of parks in town.
The parks’ names reverted to their old ones in December 1962, but the street’s name remained, town officials said.
The street’s location is approximately where Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton III and his cavalry unit of about 600 men and horses entered Vienna in December 1862, said Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman.
Hampton served in the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. J.E.B. Stuart during the Civil War and later served as South Carolina’s governor and two terms as a U.S. senator, she said.
“His post-Civil War record is controversial, involving violence and voter suppression,” Herman said.
Mayor Linda Colbert formed a committee that was charged with making a recommendation on the potential name change and proposing a new name for the street. The committee, which met five times last year, consisted of Carter, HVI member Gloria Runyon (another Carter family descendant) and two of the four property owners on Wade Hampton Drive, C. John Pott and William Ling.
Committee members and other residents of Wade Hampton Drive recommended changing the street’s name, but failed to come to a consensus, instead submitting five potential names:
• Roland Street, S.W., which was the top recommendation of the Wade Hampton Drive property owners. Wade Hampton Drive already becomes Roland Street at a bend in the roadway.
• Carter Drive or Carter Lane, S.W., which was favored by the two HVI members.
• Liberty Lane, also favored by Carter and Runyon.
• Mildred Lane (with possible variants of Mildred Drive or Loving Drive), as recommended by Ling and Pott. This was the second overall choice of the Wade Hampton Drive residents.
• Minor Drive, which would honor Andrew Minor, who bought land in Vienna in the early 1800s.
The town already has two streets –Carter Court, S.W., and Carters Glen Court, S.W. – named after the family. Muddying things further, there also is a Roland Court, S.W.
The committee recommended against letting the roadway revert to its previous name, Lewis Street, because a section of identically named street located north of Maple Avenue, W., has the same address numbers, albeit with northeast quadrant designations. Committee members worried keeping the same street name might sow confusion among package deliverers.
Wade Hampton Drive residents also have asked the town to reimburse them for document-related costs associated with changing the street name and provide free notary services, if necessary. The town already does the latter for residents in the case of name changes, Herman said.
Unlike in Fairfax County, the property owners would not have to bear the expense of new street signs stemming from the name change, she said.
The Town Council was scheduled Jan. 3 to set a public hearing on proposed name change, but a snowstorm forced town officials to cancel the meeting.
The Council on Jan. 24 may set the public hearing for Feb. 7, Colbert said.
Council member Ed Somers liked the Liberty Lane option as an “opportunity to do something to turn a negative into a positive” and reflect all the work done for the town’s Liberty Amendments Month celebration.
Council member Nisha Patel was ambivalent about the name change, saying she would yield to town residents’ preferences.
“I feel like sometimes we need to remember the history, good and bad,” she said. “Remembering bad history reminds us not to repeat those mistakes.”
Member Steve Potter remembered first hearing Wade Hampton’s name on Aug. 27,1968, as he was on a bus headed for naval flight training in Pensacola, Fla. The name was a major street in Pensacola, as well as in Corpus Christi, Texas, Norfolk, Va., and Greenville, S.C.
Hampton’s name doesn’t “have a place in today’s time, particularly for Vienna,” Potter said. “The Deep South, maybe, but there’s a different thinking that exists in some parts of the country than exists here.”
Potter favored changing the roadway’s name to Roland Street, S.W., adding, “We have enough confusion with Pott and Potter living next door.”
Council member Ray Brill Jr. said he thought the street’s name should be changed, but would not disclose his preferred selection until the public had weighed in.
Council member Howard Springsteen said changing the name to Roland Street would cause the least disturbance.
Colbert leaned toward Liberty Lane, saying such a name change could be celebrated along with Liberty Amendments Month.
“It does fit in nicely with that,” she said. “It would be very, very special.”