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Montgomery mayor moves to rename street for civil rights attorney Fred Gray

Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 8:35 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Two pivotal figures in Alabama’s fight for equal rights could intersect with a third, literally, if Montgomery’s mayor has his way.

On Tuesday, Mayor Steven Reed formally started the process to rename a city street that currently honors the first president of the Confederacy.

Reed, the first Black mayor in the city’s 200-year history, said it was time to rename West Jefferson Davis Avenue for someone else, and he has a particular person in mind for the honor.

Ahead Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Reed said the street signs should be switched to honor Fred Gray, a man who grew up on West Jeff Davis and whose name is familiar in the civil rights movement.

Reed said the street would be renamed Fred D. Gray Avenue.

He said that’s the road where Gray grew up.

“I look forward to not just honoring his past efforts, but demonstrating the city’s unequivocal commitment to continuing the fight for full equality, justice and fairness for all of our residents,” said Reed.

Reed says he will seek property owner, planning commission and City Council approval for the name change.

The announcement came on a fitting day, Dec. 1, which is Rosa Parks Day.

Dec. 1 marks the 65th anniversary of the day Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in downtown Montgomery. Parks’ actions started the Montgomery Bus Boycott and paved the way for desegregation of the city’s bus lines.

Gray served as an attorney for Parks, as well as other notable civil rights area figures, including Martin Luther King Jr. and E.D. Nixon.

If the road is renamed for Gray, it will intersect with Rosa Parks Avenue at one point and E.D. Nixon Avenue at another. It would also parallel a stretch of Interstate 85, which the 1976 Alabama Legislature named the Martin Luther King Jr Expressway.

Gray has another connection to Alabama history. His 90th birthday will coincide with the state’s 201st birthday on Dec. 14.

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