NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Fifth Avenue at the intersection of Jefferson Street now has a new name.
The section of road, which was also the site of several lunch counter sit-ins during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, was renamed Rep. John Lewis Way at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Metropolitan Nashville Public Works installed temporary signage Thursday after Metro Council approved an ordinance in November to change the name of Fifth Avenue to Rep. John Lewis Way in memory of the late civil rights leader.
Fifth Avenue will now be Rep. John Lewis Way from Jefferson Street to Oak Street at the Nashville City Cemetery. The temporary signage will accommodate emergency vehicles and Metro police until permanent signage is installed in July as part of a “Rep. John Lewis Way” celebration, coinciding with the first anniversary of the civil rights leader’s death. Lewis died on July 17, 2020; an initial celebration set for February was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a fitting tribute to Rep. Lewis and a great day for Nashville in honoring his life and legacy,” Metro Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara, chair of the Rep. John Lewis Way Committee and representative of the Council’s Minority Caucus said. “We will have a formal dedication in July, hopefully when it is safer to gather as a community to fully pay tribute to Rep. Lewis, his days in Nashville and his contributions to civil rights.”
Lewis was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and began his civil rights journey while he was a student at Nashville’s Fisk University and the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He orchestrated the historic lunch counter sit-ins that led to Nashville becoming the first city in the South to start desegregating public places.
In 1961, he represented Nashville’s group of the flourishing civil rights movement as one of the 13 original “Freedom Riders.”
Later in his career, Lewis embarked on a career centered around public service. He first served as an Atlanta City Council member, and then as a Congressman representing Georgia’s Fifth District.
Over 2,000 people have signed the petition on Change.org in support of renaming the street in memory of Rep. Lewis.