Dallas City Council Unanimously Voted To Approve Renaming A Three-Mile Stretch Of Lamar Street South Of Downtown Dallas After The Late Botham Jean.
Dallas City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve renaming a 3.7-mile stretch of Lamar Street south of Downtown Dallas as Botham Jean Boulevard.
The vote comes some six months after the proposal was initially filed last summer amidst a stretch of impassioned police brutality and racial injustice protests taking place throughout the city.
That the road name-change passed is significant in any number of ways.
The stretch of Lamar Street that will be renamed for Botham Jean includes the addresses of both the Dallas Police Department’s Jack Evans Police Headquarters and the South Side Flats apartment building where off-duty white Dallas police officer Amber Guyger killed the 26-year-old Jean, a Black man, in 2018 after having allegedly mistaken his apartment for her own.
When Jean — a song leader at the Dallas West Church of Christ and an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers — was killed, his death sparked outrage across the city and also nationally. His presence still looms large in the city, and the anger surrounding his loss only intensified in October 2019 when Guyger was given what many perceived as preferential treatment and a light, 10-year sentence after convicted of murder by a jury.
Meanwhile, Lamar Street is named for Mirabeau Lamar, the Republic of Texas’ second president and a man with a wildly problematic and racist legacy.
“This by no means brings justice for Botham,” says Yafeuh Balogun, a member of the Botham Jean Memorial Committee that was part of the push, along with Jean’s family and some members of city council, to see the street name changed. “But it’s a start.”
Dallas activists including Balogun had initially hoped that the entirety of Lamar Street would be renamed for Jean — and even the City Planning Commission supported those calls. The stretch of Lamar Street that runs through Downtown Dallas just north of I-30 through District 14 was not included in the proposal City Council approved on Wednesday, however.
It is not yet known when the name-change will go into effect. In 2019, when council approved naming a stretch of Olive Street in Victory Park after Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, a street sign-unveiling ceremony took place just a little more than a month later.
Per city staff, today’s approved name-change marks the 24th time Dallas has OK’d renaming a street since 2010.
Botham Jean Boulevard isn’t the sole regional street that authorities have recently agreed to rename after a Black person who lost their lives at the hands of police. This past fall in Fort Worth, a stretch of that city’s Allen Avenue was renamed to Atatiana Jefferson Parkway, memorializing the life of the 28-year-old who was shot and killed by a white Fort Worth police officer in her own home during the early-morning hours of October 12, 2019, while she was playing video games with her then-8-year-old nephew.
It is also not the only notable street name change to have been recently proposed in Dallas. Another effort is underway to have a stretch of Interstate 30 currently named for former Dallas mayor and prominent Ku Klux Klansman R.L. Thornton renamed after the late South Dallas activist Juanita Craft.
That the change was unanimously approved in its final vote came as something of a surprise considering the back-and-forth that preceded it in Wednesday’s council meeting.
Public speakers offered a variety of opinions on the matter. Some spoke in favor of the change, including one speaker who noted that the Dallas Police Department does not list Jean in its records of police-involved shootings. Others came out against the proposal, arguing (among other points) that the name-change would be seen as punitive within DPD’s ranks, that street name-changes for fallen police officers should be prioritized and that any change would cost too much money to the businesses located on the street. (To that last point, of more than 100 entities located on the street that were asked to share input on the name-change, only seven raised objections compared to nine that made their support known. Others didn’t respond.)
Following the public speaker portion, various council members echoed those and other concerns. District 13 council member Jennifer Staubach Gates spoke to concerns about the transparency of the name-change costs to both the city and those whose addresses would be changed. District 14 council member David Blewett, meanwhile, moved to defer the vote until a civil lawsuit the city is involved in over Jean’s death was settled.
Once that motion failed to pass, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called to order a record vote on the name-change proposal — but not without addressing council in perhaps the most human display he’s yet showcased in his time as mayor. After acknowledging that he almost never whips for votes — and how that stance has hurt him in previous legislative efforts in his position — Johnson pleaded with council members to vote in favor of the name-change. He noted that people outside of Dallas city limits were watching how their decision would play out, and he implored that council not add more pain to the Jean family’s plate.
The mayor’s speech proved effective. District 1 council member Chad West, who had supported the motion to defer, quickly flipped his vote. So too did Gates with her vote. Then, after initially abstaining in the opening voting rounds, council members Adam McGough (District 10), Cara Mendelson (District 12) and Blewett also got on board with approving the name-change unanimously.
“I’m glad the council did the right thing,” says Davante D. Peters, one of the Dallas activists who helped lead the name-change charge, as well as an upcoming candidate for the council’s District 8 seat in elections later this year. “It shows that, when common people come together and organize, anything is possible — such as renaming the street where a police department is headquartered on after a victim who died at their hands. I appreciate the council, the activists and everyone who attended our rallies and emailed their council members. I will continue to push for the entire street [to be renamed], as a piece of a street is only a piece of the respect that needs to be given to the Jean family — a family who has been fighting since the murder of their baby boy. I’m glad they finally get a small sense of victory since their tragic loss.”