Renaming block for Macon pastor draws debate

A proposal to rename a stretch of Macon’s Elm Street for the Rev. Jacob Parker got a second airing Monday evening, and this time drew opposition.

Despite a sudden driving rain, about a dozen people turned out for the public hearing at Macon City Hall. Councilman Charles Jones, sponsor of the renaming resolution, was present with fellow councilmen Tom Ellington and Rick Hutto. Councilman Larry Schlesinger presided over the hearing.

Parker has been pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church at 777 Elm St. for half a century. The resolution from Jones, a member of Parker’s church and a pastor himself, is to rename one full block of Elm -- including in front of Ebenezer Baptist -- as “Reverend Jacob Parker Boulevard.”

The affected stretch would run from the corner of Telfair Street, where Parker’s church sits, to Second Street. Jones said in late July that all 15 council members and Mayor Robert Reichert had signed onto the name change.

Monday, the Rev. Frank Ray spoke in favor of the renaming, saying that Parker, 85, deserves the recognition for many years of community service. It’s important to recognize those contributions while Parker is alive, Ray said.

Then Martha Evans Grant stepped up to speak.

Joined at the lectern by four of her brothers, she said they came on behalf of seven siblings who own five properties along Elm Street.

They oppose renaming the stretch for Parker -- not because of any opposition to him personally, but because of the street’s historic importance under its current name, she said. Elm Street was once the site of a Confederate armory and parts of it now lie within the Macon and Tindall Heights historic districts, Grant said.

“We are not opposed to your honoring Rev. Parker. We are just prayerful that you’ll find another way,” she said.

Jones said afterward that only a small portion of the street is being considered for renaming, and it’s not along the stretch in which Grant’s family owns property.

When plans to revitalize Second Street come to fruition, he said, the naming of a cross-street for Parker will memorialize a person who did a lot for the area. Jones said Parker and the church worked with the city to fix a major drainage problem in the area and cleaned it up to encourage new development.

He echoed Ray’s sentiment that Parker’s work should be recognized in his lifetime.

“Same thing we’ve done with other places,” Jones said. “He didn’t ask for this. He didn’t seek this.”

To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.