Beau Fitzpatrick, a Mottrom Drive resident, was shocked to learn that he lived on a street named after a Confederate soldier.
The street in McLean Virginia, just outside the capital of the country, is named after Mottrom dulany Ball. He was a captain in Fairfax’s cavalry and one of the Confederate officers who were taken prisoner during the Civil War. After the war, he became a Republican and was later an Alaska founding father.
Mottrom Drive was one of many side streets that a Fairfax County commission identified last year. It was tasked by the Fairfax County commission with finding forgotten Confederate names. Northern Virginia, which witnessed some of the most important Civil War battles and was for decades an integral part of the South’s South, is now one the richest regions of the country, with weak ties to its Southern roots.
It has taken less time than other places in the South to get rid of Confederate memorials and names. The Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a database that shows almost 2,300 roads, schools, and monuments related to the Confederacy in 23 states. Fewer than 400 roads, schools and monuments have been removed or renamed in recent years.
The trend started in northern Virginia in 2017, years before the latest wave of name changes. Fairfax County’s ex-J.E.B. The former J.E.B. in Fairfax County is now Justice High.
Loudoun and Fairfax counties continue to seek changes in the names of major highways that run through their territory. Fairfax is focusing on Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Highway. These highways are named after Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and respectively. Loudoun County sought new names for John Mosby Highway. It was named after a Confederate cavalry commander, who carried out raids in northern Virginia. Also, Harry Byrd Highway was named after a 20th-century politician who led the state’s massive resistance against federal demands for desegregation of public schools.
The counties have a different approach to side streets that are named after Confederate soldiers.
Fairfax will let residents request a change of name for streets it has identified through its history commission. No one has yet to sign a petition.
Jeff McKay is the chairman of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He said that he does not see inaction as an endorsement of Confederacy.
He said, “We have raised awareness about the streets and we’re leaving that up to petition process” to allow those motivated to push for a change.
Although he believes that most county residents are opposed to naming streets after members of the Confederacy – it doesn’t mean you have to change your street name. It’s not easy to do, and it requires changing the plats in the county. Residents also need to notify all utilities, banks and businesses that they are changing their address.
The decision is being made by Loudoun County in its neighbor. Loudoun County staff identified a lower number of side streets that are connected to the Confederacy, less than a dozen.
Although a formal vote is planned for September on whether to alter the names, the majority of board members stated that they plan to change all the names at their meeting this month. They sent back county staff to determine how much it would cost for them to conduct deeper research to uncover more streets that could have a Confederate connection or segregationist connection. This has so far not been done.
Koran Saines is a county supervisor and supports the name change.
“You are a member of the Confederacy and should not be given the honor of a streetname. Sorry to say that. Three of us wouldn’t be sitting here if the Confederacy had its way,” stated Saines, one the three African Americans who made up the board of supervisors at a July 6 meeting.
Bertie Jones, a long-time resident of Early Avenue in western Loudoun County is dissatisfied with the changes.
Jones, who has been living on the street since 1965, said that Jones thinks it’s a “crock of bull”.
Jones stated that she is aware her street is named after Confederate General Jubal Early. He led a campaign through Union territory 1864, asking ransoms from towns in order to prevent them setting themselves ablaze and threatening the capital of the nation. She doesn’t seem to be bothered.
“Does this mean everyone with the last name Early will have to change their names? She said that it just causes more division than any other.
Fitzpatrick, Fairfax County’s resident, said that he doesn’t think there is a need for Mottrom Drive to be renamed. He stated that he understood the reasoning behind changing major highways after prominent Confederate figures but didn’t see any point in erasing a forgotten figure from a side street.
He said, “I feel like there is a middle ground.”