Commissioner to discuss naming airport after civil rights worker

Johnny Johnson filed suit in 1972 against the city which opened the door for equitable pay and hiring practices for all races.

A traveler walks into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal in this undated file photo.

A traveler walks into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal in this undated file photo.

— After collaborating with city staff and the family of Johnnie Johnson, commissioners say that they've whittled down the list of possible items to rename in Johnson's honor to two.

Johnson, a former city public works employee, led about 260 black sanitation and utility workers to strike in the spring of 1972 and then, along with five others, sued for equitable rights and pay in local government in what would become a landmark civil rights case in Georgia.

Johnson's son, Yaz, has been asking city and county officials to name a building after his father for the last ten years. Most recently, Yaz Johnson went before the city commission in October asking that the soon-to-be constructed Broad Avenue bridge bear his father's name.

Tuesday, Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike told the commission that after research by city staff members, the bridge had become infeasible for renaming because the original bridge was dedicated to veterans of the first World War and would be rededicated to the veterans once the new bridge is built.

But Pike said that city staff had identified three city properties that could be renamed. The first property, the Law Enforcement Center at the corner of Washington and Oglethorpe is not an option, he said. Of the remaining two -- the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and the Municipal Auditorium -- Yaz Johnson has expressed a preference of the airport, Pike said.

Under city policy, the commissioner from the ward in which the building is located must bring a recommendation for a building to be renamed. Since the airport is in Ward VI, Commissioner Tommie Postell said Tuesday that he will meet with Yaz Johnson and discuss the matter with him.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams raised concerns about naming the airport after Johnson given that the terminal is already named McAfee terminal after someone and that Atlanta ran into problems renaming the airport after its former mayor Maynard Jackson.

"I don't know if the airport is the right way to go," Adams said. "I don't think we need any slashes in the name like they have in Atlanta. His father needs to be honored, but I think we need to do something that is doable and reasonable."