The Rev. Johnnie Johnson Jr.’s son, Yaz, requested that the new Broad Avenue bridge, after its renovations are complete, be named after his father.
ALBANY — Yaz Johnson asked the Albany City Commission that, when completed, the new Broad Avenue bridge be named after his late father, the Rev. Johnnie Johnson Jr.
Johnnie Johnson was fired from his public works job with the city in 1972 because of his outspokenness over separate bathrooms, water fountains and unequal pay scales.
In a landmark federal desegregation/discrimination lawsuit, a court ruled in 1976 that Albany must change its racially biased hiring practices.
Johnson told commissioners that he believed naming the bridge after his father was appropriate given the fact that his father’s actions “bridged the gap” between those being discriminated against and the pay and benefits of their white counterparts.
“When I look at the bridge, I see something that spans the community and really, it speaks to what my father stood for. I think it’s an appropriate tribute,” Johnson told the commissioners.
The current bridge was commissioned in the 1930s when it was built to honor World War I veterans. It is set for demolition later this year and will be replaced by a new bridge some time next year.
City staff told commissioners Tuesday that, as they understand it, the state intends to decommission the current bridge before demolition and re-commission the new bridge as a monument to World War I vets when its finished and open to the public.
Whether that would preclude naming the bridge after Johnny Johnson wasn’t immediately known Tuesday.
Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike offered Yaz Johnson a compromise, saying that city could be amenable to naming the fountain and the plaza in front of the government center after Johnny Johnson.
It wasn’t something that Yaz Johnson was prepared to hear.
“I’ve been patient for nine years and nothing has been birthed from this,” Yaz Johnson said. “What you’re showing me here, is nowhere near substantial enough to honor my father.”
Mayor Pro-Tem and Ward VI Commissioner Roger Marietta, who was presiding over that portion of the meeting, told Johnson that the earliest the city could consider his request would be in January because under city ordinances, the request for the naming of a building or park has to come from the commissioner in whose ward the structure is located.
In the case of the bridge, it spans not only the Flint River but Wards II and III and since Ward II is presently vacant until after the November 8 general election, a move to name the new bridge couldn’t be made until the Ward II seat was filled.
In 2002, Yaz Johnson petitioned the city to name the Central Square Government Complex after his father. At that time, the commission voted 4-3 not to name the complex after the older Johnson, who died in 2000.
In 2006, Johnson again appealed to local government, asking the city commission to name the newly-completed Law Enforcement Center at the intersection of Washington Street and Oglethorpe Boulevard after his father.
The commission authorized then City Manager Alfred Lott to have city staff research the matter and work with Yaz Johnson, to no apparent avail.