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Debate surrounding renaming of South George Wallace Drive continues

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Emma Daniel

Staff Writer

Local politicians have taken to Facebook to share their thoughts on the recently created petition to rename South George Wallace Drive.

Wes Allen, the current probate judge of Pike County, who is running for the Alabama House of Representatives, issued a Facebook statement opposing the movement the day after a story ran in last week’s Tropolitan.

“This is the epitome of political correctness run amuck,” Allen wrote on Facebook. “It is unfortunate that some young people, and, according to the article, an anonymous professor fail to understand the positive impact that Governor Wallace had on the University.

“I would encourage the students and the unnamed professor to read the full account of George Wallace’s history as it relates to Troy, Troy University and the State of Alabama. I would also encourage them to understand that we face real problems in our society today and there is no need to try to manufacture the problematic drama where there is none.”

Michael Bunn, who is currently running to replace Allen as probate judge, also took to Facebook to share his thoughts on the movement, saying that there is “absolutely no reason to rename George Wallace Drive.”

“These students and the ‘anonymous’ professor who are pushing this should spend their time on more worthwhile pursuits instead of trying to get media attention based on their lack of knowledge about the history of George Wallace and their lack of understanding of the negative economic impact that businesses and residents would have if that road was renamed.”

Julian Carroll, a senior political science major from Dayton, Ohio, is one student who supports the effort to rename the road.

“I don’t think we should glorify someone whose main platform was segregation,” Carroll said. “He was a very popular governor, but the reason he’s famous is because he was segregation’s last, greatest proponent.”

Justin Lewis, a senior political science major from Washington, D.C., is also in favor of renaming the street.

“Growing up in public schools, I learned about the history of America, the good and the bad,” Lewis said. “George Wallace was the bad.”

Lewis said he was surprised the first time he encountered George Wallace Drive.

“I’ll never forget coming for IMPACT and driving down George Wallace thinking, ‘Wait a second, isn’t this the guy who said segregation forever and sent the National Guard in to keep our schools segregated?’” Lewis said. “I’m not a liberal snowflake.

“I’m a registered Republican from Washington, D.C. I empathize with the discomfort and inconvenience this is for locals, but I would like the same empathy to be given to our students of color who drive on this road every day.”

Both Carroll and Lewis said they have a problem with George Wallace Drive in that it leads to Alabama’s international university.

Some opponents of renaming South George Wallace Drive say that Troy University students don’t have much of a say in the matter since they are only temporary residents.

“Numerous Troy students go on to live in this city,” Lewis said. “We shouldn’t be looked at as outsiders because outsiders try to destroy a city.

“We are rather long-term visitors who want the best for it. We make up a large portion of the economy and culture of this town. Without this university and its students, past and present, the city of Troy would be unrecognizable.”

Dan Puckett, a professor of history, weighed in on the “complex” history behind George Wallace.

“George Wallace was a racist, plain and simple, but George Wallace at the end had a resurgence by apologizing and seemingly rehabilitating himself and winning the governorship with heavy support from African-Americans,” Puckett said. “George Wallace is a complex figure, for good, bad or otherwise.

Puckett said that some historians argue that his later apology was calculated and “politically convenient and advantageous.”

“He knew where the political winds were blowing, he knew how to win a crowd and he changed the political calculus nationally, not just locally,” Puckett said. “He is identified as a face of Alabama, on the opposite side of (Rosa) Parks and (Martin Luther) King and the civil rights movement, and you can argue later on his apology when it was politically convenient and advantageous to have that about face.

“His repentance of his earlier sins, does that wipe away what he did before?”