Friday, August 17, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.

The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will do anything to appease whites. It’s troubling even if that wasn’t who the road was named for in the first place.

So it’s government’s job to come up with solutions, right?

Today, the Hillsborough County Commission considers two items that landed on its agenda at the same time by pure happenstance — both of them about race, the past and the future.

One is the respectful renaming of that road in a way that doesn’t erase its history. The other is finding a place to honor history itself. (Well, and a way to pay for it, too.)

Commissioner Les Miller, the board’s lone black member, took up the road renaming after someone anonymously sent him photos of a county sign off U.S. 301 in still-somewhat-rural Riverview. Uncle Tom Road, it said in official county road sign green and white.

Miller, by the way, was in the Florida Legislature back when they passed a law about changing offensive street names all over the state. "We went through I don’t even remember the number of roads that had negative racial connotations," he said, including one with the N-word.

Out in Riverview, however, the road was named for a fellow named Thomas B. Murphy, who deeded it to the county in 1960 for a single dollar. And locally, he was known as Uncle Tom.

But the ugly connotations of what Uncle Tom has come to mean — a subservient, Stepin Fetchit black person eager to please white people even at the expense of other blacks — is enough to warrant change. And change doesn’t always go so smoothly around here — witness the fierce fight over the removal of the Confederate monument outside the Hillsborough County courthouse last year.

County employees talked to the one resident of Uncle Tom Road, a man named Bob Purmort. Purmort told me this week he does not think there’s anything racist about the name, given its origin. He also definitely did not want to have to scrawl on his envelopes an even longer name that was suggested, Uncle Tom Murphy Road. (He told me he suggested Uncle Bob Road, but, no.)

But he is not opposing the change.

The compromise the commission considers today seems artful: Call it Tom Road. This keeps Tom Murphy’s name while removing the potentially offensive connotation that morphed from the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

We’ll see if the road to change is an easy one for the commission.

Speaking of artful, Miller also wants to get the ball rolling on a new African-American art museum here. Funding wise, he’s hoping for a public-private partnership.

I know, I know. They’re still flying that giant Confederate flag on private property out there to make people who drive through Hillsborough think that’s what this place is about.

Two items on today’s commission agenda say something different.

 
Comments
Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG — A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.Both allegations came after Democrat Amy K...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Two Seminole council members face challengers

SEMINOLE — Six candidates have filed to run for two open seats on the City Council.Incumbents Chris Burke, first elected in 2012, and Trish Springer, elected in 2015, face challenges from former council member Dan Hester, who served from 2005 to 2010...
Published: 08/16/18
In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

As the Aug. 28 primary election approaches, three Republicans are battling to represent a Pinellas County Commission district that hasn’t witnessed a competitive contest for more than 15 years.State Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen Peters o...
Published: 08/16/18
Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Decorum matters, and so the attorney’s language was appropriately measured.In seeking to have a constitutional amendment thrown off the ballot, a motion filed in Leon County used words such as "misleading’’ and "ambiguity’’ and "wordsmithing.’’That’s...
Published: 08/16/18
Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

BROOKSVILLE — With primary Election Day at the doorstep, two Republican candidates vying for seats on the Hernando County Commission found themselves in uncomfortable spots over potential filings with the Florida Commission on Ethics.And a third Repu...
Published: 08/15/18
Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

CLEARWATERNearly half a century ago, Martin Kelly made the mistake of his life.He was a senior at the University of Miami when he decided to take part in what would become one of the most infamous political scandals in U.S. history: Watergate. He was...
Published: 08/15/18

Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

Republican Club hosts candidate forum at meetingThe West Pasco Republican Club will host an "Election Extravaganza" candidate forum at its meeting Aug. 21 at Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, Trinity. A social time will...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting Pasco County begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, with 11 locations across the county for voters.Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20-24, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug...
Published: 08/13/18
Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

LARGO — There will be no suspense in the city when elections arrive Nov. 6. In fact, there will be no election at all, because all four city commissioners whose seats were up were re-elected by default when no one came forward by the end of the candi...
Published: 08/13/18
Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

The political kerfuffle around Melissa Howard began when a news site reported that the Florida state House hopeful is not a college graduate, as she claims to be. To prove the story wrong, Howard, R, reportedly flew to her proclaimed alma mater, Ohio...
Published: 08/12/18