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Committee approves name change for Charleston street

Charleston’s Planning Committee voted in favor of a request to rename a street in the Block Historic District on Monday, but some are opposed to the potential change.

Anthony Kinzer, director of the West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture, petitioned that two blocks of Lewis Street between Dickinson Street and Leon Sullivan Way be renamed to John Norman Street to honor two African American men — John Norman Sr. and John Norman Jr. — whose careers left an imprint on the city and beyond.

Opposed to the motion are Joan Porter Green and her cousin, Ron Wilkerson, who attended the committee meeting. Green and Wilkerson argue that the section of Lewis Street should be renamed after their family member, A.H. Brown, a prominent businessman and real estate investor in the Block District through much of the 20th century. His son, Willard, was a prominent lawyer in Charleston, was president for a time of the city’s NAACP chapter and served as a city councilman for eight years.

“The Normans lived on the West Side — name a street after him [over there],” Green said.

John Norman Sr. was the first black man to be a licensed architect in West Virginia, designing buildings such as the old Ferguson hotel and theater, while Norman Jr. was a Garnet High School valedictorian and who went on to become a world-renowned heart surgeon.

Green said she was never told about the public hearing to discuss the matter at the Municipal Planning Commission meeting a few weeks ago.

Charleston Councilman Andy Richardson and Planning Director Dan Vriendt both said they’d be open to renaming a different street after Brown at a later date.

“We’re not here in conflict or to pit anybody against each other, but it’s important that they get recognition,” Wilkerson said of the Browns.

The matter will now go before City Council at its next meeting.

In other business Monday, City Council:

n Authorized a sub-award recipient agreement with Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area for $149,000 to be awarded to the Metro Drug Unit. Those funds come from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

n Authorized a purchase approved by Finance Committee of nearly $83,000 for 100 new printers and other equipment for law enforcement agencies within the four-county Metro Valley Highway Safety Program Area of Kanawha, Boone, Clay and Logan counties.

n Mayor Danny Jones presented a certificate of appreciation to George Robson, the city’s assistant traffic engineer who is retiring after 43 years of service.

n Jones also signed a proclamation designating Dec. 21 as National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day in the city.

Reach Elaina Sauber at elaina.sauber@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.

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