Just last week I wrote a column about the politics of street names and the effort to create even more confusion along Robinson Avenue by creating a third name along the short stretch through downtown with “Thunder Drive.”
Tulsans, not to be outdone, got into an even bigger fuss over one of their most well-known streets, Brady Street, when history showed it was named for Tate Brady, once a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Brady District — a great urban arts and entertainment district — opposed the street renaming while civil rights advocates urged the Tulsa City Council to pick a new name in light of the city's troubled racial past.
They changed it to “M. Brady Street” on Thursday, saying it will now honor Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, who had no ties at all to Tulsa.
That makes sense, right? But before Oklahoma City starts mocking Tulsa, let's look at Sheridan Avenue, perhaps the most visible important street downtown. From 1889 until 1961, the street that is now home to Film Row, Devon Energy Center, the Myriad Gardens, Continental Resources and is the main drag through Bricktown was known as Grand Avenue.
But in 1961, the city council sought to name the street Sheraton Avenue in honor of the (now demised) Biltmore Hotel being branded as a Sheraton. Rival hotel operators objected. So the council named it Sheridan instead, wiping out one of the few street names that dated back to the city's very first day of existence.
But who is this Sheridan guy that the council chose to honor as a way to kill what they saw as an increasingly annoying debate?
Sheridan Avenue is named after 1800s Gen. Phillip Sheridan. He may seem pretty obscure to the populace, but he remains a giant figure among Civil War historians. So with Sheridan Avenue being such an important street, surely he was a good guy, right?
Let's start with the good news first: After the Civil War, Sheridan played a military supervisory role over reconstruction, and he recoiled at the violence used against newly freed black slaves in New Orleans. He also was reported by newspapers as having a dim view of Texas, as demonstrated by his comment “If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent Texas and live in hell.”
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