Forrest Avenue residents want street name changed

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of Memphians are trying to distance themselves from a Confederate general. The street they live on carries his name. Now, they want it changed.

For a group of residents on Forrest Avenue, one letter makes all the difference. They want one of the R’s on their street name dropped.

Jon Richey and several others filed an application to do it with the Land Use Control Board, which will have a hearing on the change in April.

They don’t want anyone thinking their street honors Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, slave trader and member of the Ku Klux Klan.

The city removed a statue of him in 2017 because of his controversial legacy.

Richey didn’t think about it until he suggested to a black friend of his that he should buy a house next door.

“And he said, ‘I don’t think I could live in this street.’ That just kind of bothered me ever since. Made me think about it differently.”

The street, which runs through the Evergreen Historic District and Binghampton, was initially spelled with one r. The second was added many years ago.

Why the name was changed is unclear, and there’s no evidence to suggest it was changed to honor the Confederate general. At least that’s what the current applicants say.

“There’s been absolutely no connection between Forrest Avenue and Nathan Bedford Forrest,” a resident said. The resident, who doesn’t want to be identified, wants the name preserved as is. “I was born on this street, my dad passed away on this street, and I’ve had two cousins get married on Forrest Avenue. The history of that is a big deal to me.”

Applicants for a street name change are normally required to pay for new signs. If their request is granted, Richey and his peers are asking that the cost be waived since the name they want is the original one.

Even if the cost is waived, the change wouldn’t be easy.

Homeowners and businesses would have to amend anything with their address on it. The Land Use Control Board will discuss the potential name during a meeting in April.

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