/ Modified feb 20, 2023 6:25 a.m.

Tempe considers replacing street names tied to KKK

Names date back a century to when prominent Tempe residents were in the Ku Klux Klan.

Tempe City Hall Tempe Municipal Building
City of Tempe website

Tempe City Council scheduled a vote next month on replacing park and road names that have century-old ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Tempe councilmembers will consider replacement names during a March 2 meeting. The new names were proposed by community members and vetted by council-appointed volunteers who met several times.

The renaming effort began in 2021 after historical research determined that several parks and streets were named after former community leaders who were members of an area Klan chapter in the 1920s. Resident Drew Sullivan helped start the initiative and staffers at the Arizona Historical Society and Tempe History Museum had a hand in the research, which also used records from the Phoenix Public Library.

A Klan chapter called Butte Klan No. 3 included many prominent Tempe residents, including mayors, council members, bankers and other power brokers, according to documents released by the city. At the time, the city’s elementary schools were segregated, as was a swimming pool at Tempe Beach Park.

The Tempe Elementary School District already has renamed three schools bearing some of the associated names.

Tempe city officials in February settled on the list of proposed replacement names, which includes civil rights activists, the first African American landowners in what is now Tempe, and married pioneers Adolfo Romo and Joaquina Jones, who fought and won in court for their children to be able to attend school with white children. Their 1925 case helped pave the way for desegregation in the United States.

“This is really touching to me because I’ve had people (in my family) who have died by hanging by the Ku Klux Klan, so I understand what this means emotionally,” Berdetta Hodge, the first Black woman to sit on the city council, told the Arizona Republic.

Pending action by the City Council, it could be the summer for the actual name changes are made.

The city is still organizing how it will reimburse residents who have to update their addresses. Residents will have one year to file claims after the properties are officially renamed.

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