Cantrell’s Official Exit

Martin Luther King, Jr. Renaming On Monday

Posted: January 18, 2014

Stan Maclin, who proposed renaming a city street after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., stands near the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Way sign at the corner of Ott Street on Friday. An official renaming ceremony is set for Monday, which coincides with MLK Day. (Photo by Michael Reilly)

HARRISONBURG — Even Stan Maclin still gets caught needing to be corrected, calling the location of a business “on Cantrell.”

Cantrell Avenue, of course, is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, and largely because of Maclin: He was the city resident who proposed honoring King by renaming a street after the slain civil rights leader, and City Council agreed with a task force’s suggestion last year that Cantrell be the one.

As somewhat of a concession to those who opposed the change, “Historic Cantrell Ave” is written in small letters underneath the new signs, although the historical significance of the name is unclear except for it being a century-old, well-traveled road.

As with any change, it’ll take time to sink in. An official renaming ceremony set for Monday, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, may help expedite the process.

The city and a group of residents, called the Martin Luther King Jr. Way Coalition, will recognize the newly named street at noon at James Madison University’s Memorial Hall, the former Harrisonburg High School at 395 S. High St.

The ceremony includes performances by a choir from Harrisonburg City Public Schools, remarks from JMU President Jonathan Alger and Eastern Mennonite University President Loren Swartzendruber and reflections from city residents Doris Allen and Fred Gibson, both of whom attended the March on Washington in 1963, event coordinator Elaine Blakey said.

The street, which officially became Martin Luther King, Jr. Way on Jan. 1, will be closed from South High to South Main streets immediately after the ceremony for a unity walk, which the coalition hopes to start around 1:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend both events.

Maclin expects a big crowd.

“It’s just amazing to see how many entities are getting involved for an idea that has become a reality,” he said. “It shows the maturity of Harrisonburg to step up to the plate and embrace change. It’s a reflection of the diversity that’s in town.”

Additional events are also planned Monday:

* At 8 a.m., JMU’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s Sigma Gamma Omega chapter will host its annual continental breakfast at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center.

* At 10 a.m., a chapel service at EMU’s Lehman Auditorium, followed by a discussion.

* At 7 p.m., JMU’s annual Martin Luther King program at Wilson Hall, featuring Steve Perry, who has been highlighted in CNN’s “Black in America” series.

And on Sunday, the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County NAACP chapter will hold a celebration at 3 p.m. at the Simms center that includes an interfaith choir performance.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

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