Considers Alternatives to Renaming Road
By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
With news that the county would be without a Supervisor of Elections for an undetermined amount of time, the County Commission wondered what should be done in the interim, with a Republican Primary coming up soon and a busy election season in the months after that. There was a question of whether or not a previous supervisor of elections would be allowed to help in the interim, and also a question of funding, should the county need or be required to hire a consultant.
The questions arose after County Attorney Tommy Reeves delivered the official announcement that Gov. Rick Scott had suspended Jada Woods Williams from her duties as Madison’s SOE following her Nov.1 arrest on charges of elections fraud, but he added that although Scott had the ability to appoint a replacement for Woods, he was not required to do so, nor did anything compel him to do so within a required time frame.
“There isn’t really a playbook on what the next step is,” said Reeves, who advised waiting to see what the Division of Elections had to say about the situation. “This doesn’t happen that much in Madison County.”
The Commissioners also heard from Willy Gamalero of the Kiwanis Club about the organization’s plans for “Light Up Madison,” planned for Saturday, Dec. 3.
Light Up Madison this year is planned not so much as a “festival,” but more as a fun event for the whole family, Gamalero told the Commissioners. The list of activities sponsored by local businesses and organizations included a short parade on Range Street with entries from local churches throughout the county, a live nativity scene (also on Range Street) between the Genealogy building and the antique store, a huge drive-in-movie-sized screen set up on the courthouse lawn to show short, child-friendly Christmas movies, photos with Santa and hayrides.
The Kiwanis Club also plans have a booth collecting toys and non-perishable food items for help light up the holidays for families in need.
Also, the Treasures of Madison Museum will have an “Open House” during the event and would like to invite the public to come in and take a look at their collection of tangible pieces of Madison’s history.
The other big item on the agenda was the renaming of Delphinium Road in honor of C.C. Matheny.
In 1950s Madison County, African American citizens could not register to vote unless they were “identified” as a resident by previously registered voters. Since all registered voters in Madison at the time were white, and the implicit threat of social and economic sanctions were held over the heads of white citizens who might wish to “identify” any African American citizens, the latter were effectively barred from registering.
That changed in 1954. C.C. Matheny, a white citizen and supervisor of Negro Education, broke with tradition and “indentified” African American citizen and Negro Schools principal Jenyethel Merritt, allowing her to register. Then, as a registered voter herself, Merritt could in turn “identify” other African American residents in Madison and allow them to register as well.
Matheny’s action cost him his job, and his family was ostracized and harassed by much of the white community.
At the County Commission meeting last month, Deloris Jones recounted the story for those gathered at the commission meeting, as commissioners discussed the idea of renaming NE Delphinium Road after Matheny, and voted to send out notices to the residents so they could come to the next meeting and voice their opinions before the matter was voted on.
At the Nov. 2 meeting, about half a dozen residents of the rural road went before the commission to state that although Matheny should be honored for his courage, renaming Delphinium Road was not the way to do it.
“An address change is not a fun thing,” said Harry Gramling, citing several documents that would have to be changed over, including long-term insurance papers and “things you never thought about,” until they had to be changed.
Jennifer Hendry, of Southern Living for Seniors, said the address change would impact everything from her Medicaid license, to her business papers, to the social security checks for the 22 ladies living at her facility. “Many of these ladies don’t even have any family left to help them with the address change,” said Hendry. Another man pointed out that they had already been through the address change process once with the 911 addressing system and had no desire to be put through it again.
Others who said Matheny deserved recognition suggested alternatives to renaming the road. After all, one resident pointed out, what would the name “Matheny” on a signpost mean to anyone unless they already knew the story? What about a plaque in a public place like the park? What about dedicating part of the bike trail to him with some sort of historical marker that told the story behind the man?
Commissioners discussed the public’s comments, and Commissioner Alfred Martin said that he didn’t realize the address change was such a burdensome process.
The Commission then voted unanimously to choose a committee to look at the alternatives.