Loudoun County to rename 2 major commuter routes

Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors voted to rename the portions of U.S. Routes 50 and 7 that run through the Virginia county because one was named after a Confederate commander and the other after an ardent segregationist.

The board voted Tuesday to change the name of U.S. 50, also called John Mosby Highway, and U.S. 7, known as Harry Byrd Highway, in the stretches contained in Loudoun County.

Mosby was a Confederate commander during the Civil War.

Byrd was a Virginia governor from 1926 to 1930, and a U.S. senator from the 1930s to ’60s.

“He was a public official for a long time, but what he was most known for was his zealous opposition to integration,” said Loudoun Supervisor Koran Saines. “Byrd led the massive resistance to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in schools.”

Saines authored the motion to the begin the process of naming the two highways.

Supervisor Juli Briskman headed another motion, which will have the county inventory public roads, buildings, parks and other entities named for racist figures.

In September, the board began discussions of doing an inventory of county roads and buildings named for segregationists.

“Residents, especially those of color, shouldn’t have to drive on, walk on, play in or pay taxes to support public infrastructure that glorifies those who would tear apart our nation, and continue a system of racism and oppression, well beyond the end of the Civil War,” Briskman told fellow board members.

Board Chair Phyllis Randall supported both motions, saying naming entities after historical figures is a celebration of what that person stood for.

“We should learn history. We should know it. We should study it, and we should appreciate it. But every part of history should not be celebrated,” Randall said.

Though voting in support of the motion to change the name of Byrd and Mosby highways, Leesburg Supervisors Kristen Umstattd said if the Virginia Department of Transportation agrees to install new signage, the change will be disruptive to 200 addresses that include the current names.

“It is a big thing when you ask someone to accept a change of street address, because what it means is your packages and mail will probably get lost for about a year,” Umstattd said. “We’d have to work closely with the post office, and Amazon, and UPS and FedEx to try to ease that.”

The board adopted a suggestion by Supervisor Matt Letourneau to consult with Fairfax County, which is currently considering name changes for both Routes 7 and 50, in an effort to maintain consistency.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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