DALLAS (CBS11) – There’s a freeway in Dallas named after a Ku Klux Klan member and former mayor.
Racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend is giving new life to an effort by a Dallas man to change the name of the freeway.
“African Americans, Hispanics, everyone, whites should be insulted that we have a freeway named after a former Klansman,” said James Dunn, a former teacher and activist.
Certain stretches of I-30 and I-35 in Dallas are named for Robert L. Thornton. He served as mayor in the 1950s and 60s.
The banker and businessman played an important role with the State Fair of Texas. A statue of him stands at Fair Park, and there’s an elementary school named after him.
Thornton was also a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Why would you have somebody’s name who’s a klan’s man on a school like that,” asked Anthony Miller, who lives near the school. “That’s not right.”
Dunn started a petition to get Thornton’s name off the freeway and rename it after President Barack Obama.
He plans to present the signatures to Dallas’ mayor and city council next month.
“The mayor and council are going to have to get a spine and understand that we in Dallas must show that we are not going stand by and tolerate racists symbols, racist imagery,” said Dunn. “People say that this is just remembering our history. If you have a street named after R.L .Thornton, that’s not remembering history, that’s celebrating history.”