A street that for six decades has borne the name of a Confederate officer now will bear the patriotic – and in theory non-controversial – moniker of “Liberty Lane,” Vienna Town Council members unanimously agreed Feb. 7.
The motion, put forth by Council member Charles Anderson, also set a July 4 deadline for changing the name, directed town staff to prepare an implementation pan and stipulated payments of $500 to each household on the street to compensate those residents for bureaucratic expenses and other inconveniences in making the switch-over.
The renaming initiative started in June 2020, when Historic Vienna Inc. (HVI) member De Armond “Dee Dee” Carter, a descendant of a prominent African-American family that has live in Vienna since before the Civil War, asked the Council to consider renaming Wade Hampton Drive, S.W.
The Council in June 1961 renamed Lewis Street, S.W., after Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton III as part of an amendment that also renamed a pair of parks in town. The committee that had proposed the name changing featured no African-Americans and the Council did not hold a public hearing on the matter, town officials said.
While the parks reverted to their old names in December 1962, the street remained Wade Hampton Drive, S.W. Hampton served in the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. J.E.B. Stuart during the Civil War and the street’s location is roughly where Hampton and his cavalry unit of about 600 men and horses entered the town in December 1862.
Hampton later became South Carolina’s governor and served two terms as a U.S. senator. His post-Civil War record was marred by violence and voter suppression, said Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman.
Following Carter’s request, Mayor Linda Colbert formed a committee to examine the proposal and possibly suggest a new street name. The group, which met five times in 2021, consisted of Carter, HVI member Gloria Runyon (another Carter family descendant) and two of Wade Hampton Drive’s four property owners, C. John Pott and William Ling.
The committee and other residents on Wade Hampton Drive favored changing the street’s name, but could not reach a consensus on a new name. Instead, the group suggested these five names:
• Roland Street, S.W., which was favored by the Wade Hampton Drive property owners. A short street, Wade Hampton Drive turns into existing Roland Street at a bend in the roadway.
• Carter Drive or Carter Lane, S.W., which was favored by Runyon and Carter.
• Liberty Lane, ditto.
• Mildred Lane (or possibly Mildred Drive or Loving Drive), as recommended by Ling and Pott. This was the second choice of Wade Hampton Drive residents.
• Minor Drive, which would honor Andrew Minor, who bought property in Vienna in the early 1800s.
Vienna officials are authorized to rename streets because the town maintains its roadways, said Town Attorney Steven Briglia.
In subsequent Council discussions, the proposed Carter street names were knocked out of contention early because Vienna already has two streets – Carter Court, S.W., and Carters Glen Court, S.W. – named after the family.
The Council also rejected reverting the roadway’s name to its original Lewis Street, S.W., because addresses for Lewis Street, N.W., on the opposite side of Maple Avenue, W., are identical and might cause confusion for delivery drivers.
Simply renaming Wade Hampton Drive as a continuation of Roland Street had been picking up steam, but Council members on Feb. 7 scrapped that idea, too, in part because of Carter’s testimony.
Carter, who pressed again to have the roadway named after her family, said Roland – his first name never came up – had been a Confederate soldier and racist.
Catherine Hardman, who lives on nearby Lewis Street, N.W., concurred.
“If we’re going to right a wrong, we have to right a wrong completely,” she said.
Council members agreed on Liberty Lane because its name is not associated with any one person, whose actions might be judged by some future Council as inappropriate, thus necessitating another renaming.
Liberty Lane’s name also echoes the town’s new Liberty Amendments Month celebration, which officials inaugurated last year.
Wade Hampton Drive’s renaming had been an emotional, passionate experience for some residents, the mayor said.
“When this street was renamed [decades ago as Wade Hampton Drive], it was almost like a poke in the eye,” Colbert said. “That’s horrible. Liberty is not a person’s name. We are all created equal. Naming it Liberty puts the emphasis on that.”