Linda Halford, the daughter of former Albany Mayor W.F. McAfee, speaks to the Albany Dougherty Aviation Commission Monday. The board unanimously reaffirmed the name of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and the McAfee Terminal.
ALBANY — In an effort to “send a message” to the Albany City Commission, members of the Albany Dougherty Aviation Commission voted unanimously Monday to reaffirm the names of both the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and the airport’s McAfee Terminal.
Last week, the City Commission discussed naming a city-owned property in honor of former city employee Johnnie Johnson, who in 1972 led a strike and later filed suit along with five others that forced local governments to pay whites and blacks equally and provide equal opportunities.
It was during that discussion that Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said that Yaz Johnson’s preference of available city property to bear his father’s name would be the airport.
And while Albany Mayor Willie Adams questioned whether it was appropriate, the commission ultimately directed Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell — the elected representative of the ward in which the airport is located — to talk to Johnson about the matter.
Under city naming policy, the commissioner from the ward in which the building to be named is located can bring the motion before the commission.
During Monday’s Aviation Commission meeting, Commissioner Charles Gillespie offered a motion that the body reaffirm, for the purposes of clarity and for official business connections, that the name of the airport remain the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and the terminal remain the McAfee Terminal.
Commissioners Eugene Jeter and Sanford Hilsman questioned why this was coming up before the Aviation Commission when the City Commission had not taken any formal action.
“A lot of people were upset with the way the media presented it as something that may actually happen,” Aviation Commission member and Ward IV City Commissioner Roger Marietta said. “I think this would send a message to the commission as a recommendation from this body that the name not change.”
Hilsman said he felt as though the Aviation Commission was taking pre-emptive action on something that may end up being moot.
“I just don’t see why we should take action on it right now when (the City Commission) is still discussing it,” Hilsman said.
Following the vote, the board heard from Linda Halford, the daughter of W.F. McAfee, the former Albany mayor whose name is on the terminal.
McAfee died in office during his second term in office when his plane crashed in 1958, killing him and two others. Just prior to the flight, McAfee and the commission had secured an appropriation to make the airport a commercial air-travel hub.
“I don’t think it would be right to change the name,” Halford said. “And even changing Southwest Georgia Regional Airport would be inappropriate, I think, because it speaks to what this airport is, a rural regional airport.”
Before the City Commission tasked Postell with speaking to Yaz Johnson about the airport, Pike said that city staff had essentially identified three properties that could be named.
City leaders have repeatedly said they won’t name the Law Enforcement Center downtown for Johnson, leaving just the airport and the Albany Municipal Auditorium.