MEMPHIS — City officials on Thursday unanimously approved naming a prominent street in the tourist district for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., nearly 44 years after the civil rights leader was killed in Memphis.
The 10 members of the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board voted to rename a nine-block downtown stretch Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue. Now called Linden Avenue, it runs in front of the FedExForum, where the Memphis Grizzlies play their home games, and parallel to Beale Street, the famous tourist drag.
The street also runs near the Clayborn Temple, where King rallied with striking sanitation workers days before he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. King led a march on Linden Avenue during the strike.
The city already had a section of Interstate 240 dedicated to King, but the naming of a prominent city street is being seen as a symbol that the city is finally taking steps to heal the pain caused by the assassination.
A ceremony is planned April 4 to honor King and unveil the new street signs. About 900 cities nationwide already have city streets named for King.
"The world was looking at Memphis to make its mark," said Berlin Boyd, a former city councilman who proposed the renaming.