The Killeen City Council rendered the late Rosa Hereford a much-deserved honor last week when members agreed to name a city facility in her honor.
Hereford, a longtime educator, six-term council member and civil rights activist, died in November after a long illness. She left a lasting legacy in the community, and it is fitting that a city building will bear her name.
The question, of course, is which facility would be the most appropriate?
Killeen Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick previously suggested naming the Killeen Community Center after her, and Councilwoman Shirley Fleming last week endorsed Kilpatrick’s idea. Council members present unanimously agreed in a 6-0 consensus vote.
Fleming noted that Hereford went to the community center “all the time.”
Indeed, with the center’s offerings of classes, recreation programs and cultural events, it serves as a gathering place for Killeen-area residents of all interests and from all walks of life.
And if there’s anyone who embodied that inclusiveness and sense of community, it was Rosa Hereford.
But there’s an even more significant connection to the building.
For many years, the community center served as the site of the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday program, a tribute to the life and legacy of the slain civil rights icon — a program Hereford attended frequently.
As a college student in the early 1960s, Hereford made her own contribution to the fight for civil rights when she took part in the famous Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, which helped to turn the tide against segregation.
Throughout her adult life, Hereford was a strong proponent of voting rights and exercising the right to vote. As such, the fact that the community center frequently serves as a Killeen polling site makes it even more appropriate that the facility be named in her honor.
However, just because the community center seems to be a good fit to carry Hereford’s name doesn’t mean it’s the only logical choice.
Hereford was a pioneer in city politics. She was the first woman — and first African-American woman — to be elected to the Killeen City Council, and she went on to serve six nonconsecutive terms between 1984 and 1997, among the most in the city’s history.
Given her strong ties to the council and longtime impact on city government, it would seem appropriate to name the council chambers at City Hall in Hereford’s honor.
Another possibility would be to designate the main banquet hall at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center in Hereford’s memory. The large venue has held community meetings, candidate forums and memorial services for civic leaders — the kinds of events that bring people together from all areas of the city, as Hereford consistently sought to do.
Of course, renaming a city facility is not the only option available.
Renaming a street after Hereford also has been mentioned, and was initially suggested by Councilwoman Fleming.
However, street naming is a bit more problematic than redesignating a city facility.
First, council members would have to agree on a street they feel is significant and appropriate.
Secondly, unless the renaming is an honorary designation, changing the street name would require adjustments by residents and businesses along the segment to be renamed. That means changes in business addresses and letterhead, residential mailing addresses, utility billing and voter registration — as well as redesignating the street in the county’s 911 address system.
Finally, the renaming of a street requires notification by mail to potentially affected residents as well as a public hearing before the change can be implemented.
An honorary street renaming — as was approved recently by the council to pay tribute to the late Bishop Nathaniel Holcomb — does not change the official name of the road. However, the dual designation is fully recognized by the city.
It’s interesting to note that the process for renaming streets is spelled out by city ordinance, but there is no designated procedure for renaming city facilities — an omission Councilman Gregory Johnson cited after Tuesday’s vote. He asked that the city staff draft a policy on naming city facilities after individuals, and his motion was approved unanimously.
Whatever policy council members ultimately approve, it should allow for public input.
Not only does the city’s street renaming ordinance include the requirement of a public hearing, but it also allows for residents to petition for street name changes — though they are also responsible for any costs associated with new city signage.
Killeen’s eventual facility-naming ordinance should also include a petition provision.
It stands to reason that if taxpayers are the ones supporting the city’s use and staffing of its facilities, they should have some input on whether and how they are redesignated — as well as which ones would best honor a given individual.
The Killeen school board should also solicit public input, if and when it considers naming a school or other district facility in Hereford’s honor — which would be a fitting tribute to the 30-year educator and counselor.
Ultimately, of course, it’s up to the City Council to decide which facility is most appropriate to rename when honoring an individual from our community.
Nevertheless, public involvement is always preferable — either in proposing a renaming initiative or in helping to give direction to a city-initiated proposal.
When it’s all said and done, the city’s residents should have their voices heard.
And that’s a sentiment Rosa Hereford would heartily endorse.