Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Highway Named For Carl Stokes?

The PD reports that efforts are afoot to name a highway in honor of the late Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major American city, elected 40 years ago. Okay, let him have his highway. His kid brother Lou, after all, has his name on half the large buildings in Cleveland, payback for all the hometown pork he shoveled through the Appropriations Committee during his long tenure on Capitol Hill. And as I discovered in a recent trip to Cincinnati, Ohio already has a highway named for Ronald Reagan. But I think the state legislature would be remiss in its duties if it didn't also at least acknowledge that the Carl Stokes legacy was tarnished a good bit by his actions toward the end of his life. So if the highway is to be named after him, how about also placing a Carl Stokes memorial hardware store and pet shop side by side just off one of the exit ramps?


At 11:30 PM, Blogger Tim Ferris said...

I've come to think of such honorific moves as bad public policy. If Carl had built the highway, that would be another thing--perhaps then it should be named after him. But this hijacking of existing property and naming it after some political personality is sort of a hermit-crab move, crawling into some other creature's shell. We have had Liberty Boulevard, Fairhill, and some bridge down in the Flats all named after people who had nothing to do with them, and it's about time to end the devotional foolishness, and perhaps even to reverse the process. These current politicians are tampering with our heritage, and I am beginning to resent it.

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Richard said...

I think the NYT piece you linked to was unfair, both when published & now.
Carl was no saint, and certainly had his weaknesses. But the petty stuff cited in the the Times is historical lint compared to the man's achievements.

Yesterday's PD, for all its Stokes' stuff, does little justice to the man or his accomplishments, and fails utterly to depict how stacked the deck was against black people in "the greatest location in the nation" that was mid-20th century Cleveland.

Incidentally, Carl was the kid brother.

And I agree with Tim Ferris. But at least Carl has been dead awhile. It is especially unfortunate when politicians bestow building honorifics upon the barely-out-of-office.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Tim, awfully well said, and I couldn't agree more. But the reality is that this kind of stuff isn't remotely about to end. It happens everywhere, not just in this region. And Richard, as always you set me straight well. Silly error on the issue of which brother was older. I'm not sure I agree that two cases of apparent petty shoplifting are nothing more than tiny footnotes on the man. Coming so late in life, they seem to speak more to character than if they were early in his life. And the fact that there were two cases makes it more than twice as bad as if it were one.

Anyway, why quibble? Your larger point is that the man isn't and hasn't been given his due for what he accomplished at such a difficult time. But I also think it's important to note that he won office largely because the white establishment in this town--led by the Plain Dealer and Press, which endorsed him--championed him not out of any real respect for the man or for the larger black community, but because they wanted someone to contain the racial powder keg, and thought he was the man to do it. The failures of his tenure mostly flowed from those cynical underpinnings.


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