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Vienna poised to hold public hearing over street named after Confederate general

Wade Hampton Drive in Vienna (via Google Maps)

As Fairfax County moves to rename two major highways, efforts to reexamine the names of landmarks referencing the country’s racist past are making their way to the Town of Vienna.

The Vienna Town Council is slated to vote Monday (Jan. 24) to schedule a public hearing on possibly renaming Wade Hampton Drive, a small neighborhood street southwest of Maple Avenue.

The council was scheduled to vote on Jan. 3, but the meeting got canceled by snow. Town public information officer Karen Thayer told Tysons Reporter that the public hearing will likely be set for Feb. 7.

Wade Hampton Drive was one of several Vienna sites included in a report of Confederate street names, monuments, and public places that the Fairfax County History Commission compiled in December 2020.

The town adopted the name in the 1960s in reference to Wade Hampton III, a lieutenant general for the Confederacy who later worked against Reconstruction efforts and raised money for the Ku Klux Klan. He served as governor of South Carolina for two years after a notoriously corrupt election.

If the council eventually approves a name change, it’s unclear what the replacement will be. The small street contains just four residences, a dentist’s office, and the Sunrise assisted living facility that’s now under construction.

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert formed an ad hoc committee last year to study the issue and propose a new name. The committee consisted of two property owners on the street and two members of the nonprofit Historic Vienna, which operates the Freeman Store and Museum and the Little Library Museum.

After meeting in March, April, and May, the group recommended changing Wade Hampton Drive’s name but couldn’t reach a consensus on what it should be called instead.

One proposal was to use Roland Street, which would extend an existing road that links Wade Hampton to Nutley Street. Other suggestions included Carter Lane or Drive, Mildred Lane (or variants of Mildred Drive or Loving Drive), Liberty Lane, and Minor Drive.

According to documents from the committee, at least one member expressed opposition to Roland Street in a June 1 letter to the mayor and council:

Many of my Great Aunts and Uncles spoke about J.B. Roland was a Confederate sympathizer and a racist. As I have learned from my Grandparents and father that ‘Old Man Roland’ supported the Confederacy and he was a Confederate soldier.

Roland Street was not listed in the Fairfax County History Commission’s Confederate names inventory.

The committee’s two Historic Vienna members — DeArmond Carter and Gloria Runyon — advocated for Carter Drive or Lane in recognition of their ancestors, the Carter family, who have lived in Vienna since 1859 and counted a Union spy and major landowners among their members.

Alex Gallegos, a resident on the affected street, raised concerns that committee members proposing a street name to highlight their own family could create conflicts of interest.

The four families on the affected street said that, if Roland Street is ruled out, they would favor a reference to Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, the couple behind the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriages nationwide.

Photo via Google Maps

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