Tempe city leaders discuss name changes after streets, parks linked to KKK

Tempe leaders learned the names were linked to the Ku Klux Klan.
Tempe leaders learned the names were linked to the Ku Klux Klan.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 10:47 AM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The City of Tempe, with the aid of the Tempe History Museum, laid out some of the evidence linking city streets and parks named after Klu Klux Klan members during Friday’s meeting. This is the first of four meetings in the next few months that will lead to changing the names of three streets and parks: Hudson Lane, Laird Street, Hudson Park, Harelson Park and Redden Park. The renaming process began about a year ago. The city said it’s been researching the history of street and park names in the city. The history museum staff went to local libraries to check archives; they eventually found these names had ties to KKK members from the 1920s.

Two museum curators at the meeting presented some evidence linking these names to the KKK members they were named after. Friday’s meeting spoke only on the background of the street and park names. No replacement names were discussed during the hearing.

The KKK was a prominent organization, the historians said, with many members in prominent positions. For example, Hugh E. Laird, who Laird Street is named after, served as mayor of Tempe twice--from 1928-1930 and 1948-1960. The evidence that senior museum curator Joshua Roffler connects Laird with the KKK were ledgers kept by the hate group to keep track of membership dues. “The KKK then, as is now, stands for hate and has hateful beliefs and has racial and cultural superiority,” said Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching. “The City of Tempe rejects those values and as a result, wants to make sure the renaming of these facilities is consistent with the city’s values and the values of the community.”

The committee suggests that the public submit and discuss names online at the Tempe city forum. However, they’re also looking for other ways to reach out to communities that lack internet access. The deadline for submitting names is Oct. 17. Once the names are gathered, the committee will go over the names during the next meeting on Oct. 18.

Council members are expected to hold a vote either at the end of the year or the beginning of 2023. It will take several months to update people’s addresses with the post office and maps. “I can’t tell you exactly how long it would be,” Ching said. “But I would want to be mindful of the fact that there would be a transition phase, and that timeline would be included with the recommendation of names to give plenty of time that we advertise it well and people know what the changes are and when they are coming.

You can learn more about the street and park renaming on Tempe’s city website.