Thousands petitioning to change the name of Robert E. Lee Road

Some who live on the south Austin street argue changing its name would be a hassle

Signs for Robert E Lee Road in South Austin were vandalized this weekend following the violence in Charlottesville, Va. (Courtesy Photo: Marti Mattia)
Signs for Robert E Lee Road in South Austin were vandalized this weekend following the violence in Charlottesville, Va. (Courtesy Photo: Marti Mattia)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In Austin, an online group is petitioning to have the name of Robert E. Lee Road changed after the White Nationalist rally in Virginia turned deadly on Saturday.

Over the weekend, Robert E. Lee street signs were vandalized with red spray paint at four intersections in the south Austin neighborhood. The city says it will cost about $700 and take a couple of weeks to replace the signs.

Now, thousands of people have signed the change.org petition to rename Robert E. Lee Road.

“There are lots of people here in this neighborhood who really want the name changed, and they’ve been wanting it for years,” said Gilbert Ramos, who’s lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.

“I see it every day,” Ramos said. “And I feel uncomfortable just seeing that name.”

Ramos wrote to Austin City Council members Monday, asking that the name of the street be changed to that of Officer William DeWayne Jones Sr., who was shot and killed on the street while on duty in 2000.

“I figure that would be the most appropriate name,” Ramos said. “A hero for Austin and this neighborhood.”

But not all of Ramos’ neighbors say they’d be on board with changing the street’s name. “I think it would be an extreme hassle,” said Paul Violand, who lives on Robert E. Lee Road. “I don’t want to do it.”

In order to change the name of the road, a series of steps must be followed, including half of everyone with property touching the street giving written approval of the changes. That would  be followed by a public hearing, internal reviews and a final decision by the city council.

If a name change were to be approved, people who live on the road would then have to fill out change of address forms with the post office, as if they were moving.

“You’re talking about changing mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts, driver’s licenses,” Violand said. “I wouldn’t sign on to it.”

To begin the process of renaming the road, either a city council member, a city department or someone with property on or abutting Robert E. Lee Road would have to apply for the name to be changed.

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