MLK Boulevard at 25: City Councilmen unanimously in favor of renaming Union Avenue for Dr. King

Council Will Rename Union Avenue For King


“It looks like a done deal,” commented City Commissioner Bob Koch as two more City Council members announced their support for renaming Union Ave. in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. at an April 20 council hearing.

With the full council now on record in support of the renaming, all that remains to make it official is a vote scheduled for tomorrow.

Mayor Bud Clark and Commissioner Earl Blumenauer added their backing to the Union renaming, joining the previously announced supporters, Commissioners Koch, Mike Lindberg and Dick Bogle.

While some opponents of the change said the Union name should not be altered since it honors the Union that won the Civil War, Clark said, “It’s time to update the fact.” While Abraham Lincoln and the Union he led were the emancipators of the 1860s, “The great emancipator in the 20th century was Martin Luther King.”

A number of Union Ave. business people complained that the change would confuse their customers. Angelo Lampus, owner of City Center Mini Storage, said people connect his business with a Union location. Blair Acker of Food Services Inc. said customers “know where Union is.”

Blumenauer dismissed such complaints.

“The last thing I’m worried about is educating people over the next five years about where King Blvd. is,” the commissioner said. “If anything, it will probably be easier for people to find the street.”

“Symbolism is important as we attempt to negate the image of skinheads and racial hostility that has made it on national television,” [Carolyn Leonard,] Renaming Committee chair said.

Union Avenue businesses owners Reuven Roth of Roth BMW and Jerry Van Horton of Custom Marble worried that the new name will imply that surrounding neighborhoods are all African-American.

“We’re going to label that area a Black neighborhood,” Van Horton said. The renaming “has some good points, but it is a racial issue.”

State Affirmative Action Director Kathleen Saadat testified immediately after Van Horton.

“Some people believe that this is a racial issue, which points out the need to do more work,” Saadat said.

The issue goes beyond race or money to the uplift of the human spirit, said the state official.

“We have trouble now because we have not taken the time to put positive symbols before our children,” Saadat commented.

Not all business people opposed the change. Neil Kelly testified that the North/Northeast Boosters support the renaming.


–‘Council Will Rename Union For King,’ The Skanner, April 19, 1989. (edited for length.)


*****I’ll have Ms. Kathleen Saadat on my radio show next week! We’ll be talking about activism and the search for justice in our community. Join us for the conversation on KBOO’s Out Loud, 6-7 pm, next Tuesday, April 22nd, 90.7 FM or online.




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