Special Report – Alamogordo’s Rev. Dr. MLK Drive: Facts & Fiction

At the Alamogordo City Commission meeting of 8/24/2021, the cowboy of the County Commission, Couy Griffin, rode in on his white horse to present the city a letter that the County Commission had drafted asking that the road going to the detention center be renamed. Mr. Grifin made several comments that raised questions about the roads name and the optics around the road leading to the County detention center.

By Mr. Griffins own admission when asked by if the commission asked him to speak to the Alamogordo City Commission in public comments, about the road or to deliver the letter, he admitted “I took it upon myself to hand deliver the letter and to express my personal feelings as to why I believe the road should be rededicated.”

If one were to listen to Mr. Griffin’s statements last evening it would appear the road leads to the County jail and there was malice in the naming. Thus the site decided to call the power brokers of Alamogordo and get the story and the history.

Factual History of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Drive

Up until 2005 there was no consideration for an MLK Drive in Alamogordo but “a group of about 50 to 60 concerned citizens made it a priority for consideration of naming a road after Dr. King” according to the Reverend Warren L Robinson, Pastor of Owen Chapel A.M.E. Church and past president of the Alamogordo Chapter of the NAACP.

Around 2004 according to City Manager, Brian Ceasar; “the city was looking at the option of creating a bypass that would run from Scenic Drive, through South Florida, around parts of the city and eventually connecting to Highway 70 near Holloman”. As a result of that proposed bypass at least one public meeting was held in 2005 and consideration was made and presented to call the Bypass Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

As a result of that proposed bypass there are now unintentionally TWO Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Drives within the city limits of Alamogordo. One is by the golf course, and another is the one Mr. Griffin referenced which leads to the County Jail.

The original intent was not for this to be two separate roads, but one long continuous road that would be the large bypass road connecting Highway 54 to Highway 70.

Commissioner Matherly Takes Proactive Action in 2020

Obviously, the optics of a MLK Drive leading to the County Jail does not look good for the city nor to Otero County. As such a group of concerned citizens brought this concern to County Commissioner Gerald Matherly last year. Around October of last year Commissioner Matherly placed discussion of the roadway onto the County Agenda. It was then discussed and debated and decided by the Otero County Commission in 2020, that they would ask the city of Alamogordo, to rename the roadway leading to the jail, due to the poor optics of MLK Drive leading there. As such, the issue had been raised by concerned citizens and a proposal for resolution made.

Commissioner Matherly did the correct thing in placing it on the county agenda and taking the lead to get the name changed of the portion of the roadway separate from the other and leading to the jail.

The reality is the road was already named Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, well before the County committed to placing the jail there. The intention of the city and the county was for the road to be a bypass and for the jail NOT to be the only building on the long-designated roadway.

As history would prove, the bypass fell by the wayside, funding never came forward, there are now residential houses in part of its pathway. The result of time and no funding and the net result is city now has two roads named after MLK one of which is poor optics leading to the county jail.

Commissioner Matherly attempting to fix a wrong and championed the fix in October of 2020.

Paperwork and Fate

As fate would have it, the issue of changing the portion of MLK Drive that went to the jail, languished for quite some time. Covid-19 hit, roles within the county attorney’s office changed and the paperwork never got to the city as a complete package to move the issue forward.

Brian Ceasar the City Manager said, “the city was awaiting the completion of the paperwork and the payment of $150.00 per city code in order for the city’s process of renaming the street to move forward.”

Couy Griffin had the issue placed back on the last County Commission agenda to send a letter to the city at last month’s commission meeting. Commissioner Matherly reminded Mr. Griffin that the issue was already in the works and that he would personally see what the hold up was to move it forward.

Last Monday, Commissioner Matherly went to the City Planning Department to see what the holdup was, and he was told the paperwork had been filed to rename the road to the jail from MLK Drive to an alternative name but that the fee had never been paid, thus the issue could not move forward. At 10:04 am on Monday, Commissioner Matherly, then went to the City Cashier and personally paid the $150.00 to move the project forward.

Once the payment was made by Commissioner Matherly, then that moved the wheels within the city into action.

Next Steps thanks to Commissioner Matherly spoke to Planning Commissioner Eddie Kemp who said, “that as soon as the item is placed on the planning commissions agenda it is ready to move forward as per the rules of the city code.”

After more research from it was learned that the item is now on the agenda for the City Planning Commission to consider on October 7th.

The process is that they will more than likely approve the renaming for the street by the jail and send the item to the City Commission for consideration as per City Ordinance. The City Commissioners will then vote on renaming the road by the jail from MLK Drive to the alternative name. Once that is done the city will then rededicate the street a new name.

The commentary from Commissioner Couy Griffin at the City Commission meeting last night, was probably unnecessary, as the wheels of the process were already moving forward thanks to the payment by Commissioner Matherly.

The comments by County Commissioner Griffin, did not reference the complete history, nor how the city and the county got into the pickle it is in, so to speak. His comments did leave one with an uneasy feeling, as to why the road to the jail was named after the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, thus our investigation and multiple phone calls to the powers that be to get the real story and understand the history to present to, you, our readers.

The outcome anticipated, is that there will soon be one Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Road and that will be the one near the golf course. The road to the county jail will be named a new name and hopefully one of hope and inspiration.

The longer-term desire of many and confirmed in a discussion with the Rev. Warren L Robinson, Pastor would be, “eventually for MLK Drive to be repositioned to the city center like it is in most cities. concurs with that thought.

We believe that the city should indeed continue the path as proposed by the County to rename the street by the jail.

But we propose that the City Commission and the power structure of Alamogordo should consider the history and contributions of the African American and Hispanic Communities and their neighborhoods within the city center of Alamogordo and name two streets in honor of civic leaders.

  1. We propose that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive be the name placed on the street where the old Corinth School is located. Prior to 1950 Corinth School was the segregated Black School in Alamogordo. It would be appropriate to name that downtown street after Dr. King and to place an educational placard on that street explaining the history of desegregation that took place on that street led by Coach Rolla Buck and others of the time.
  2. We also propose that the street where the Dudley School was located be named after Ceasar Chavez Drive. Until 1946 the Dudley School was the segregated school for Hispanic Students. Again, under the leadership of Coach Rolla Buck at the time the Hispanic School was closed, and the Alamogordo High School was integrated with Hispanic students. As such Ceasar Chavez Drive would be an appropriate naming of the street where Dudley School was locate and an educational placard placed on that street as well explaining the history of the street, the school, and the significance of the street naming.

The issue that Couy Griffin spoke about at last nights city commission meeting was not a nefarious issue as one might have been left to wonder, as MLK Drive was supposed to be a major bypass. The White Knight concerning the issue is Gerald Matherly in leading the dialog beginning in 2020 to fix the issue.

Now let’s have other white knights within the city of Alamogordo move forward not only with changing the name of the street by the jail but giving an honest dedication to history and naming appropriate streets after historical figures of our diverse community.

The bigger issue however before the city of Alamogordo is to embrace the diversity within the city, name the appropriate streets in the appropriate neighborhoods after those of historical significance. Who will be the champion within the city to go a step further and place educational placards on the streets in question, to explain the naming and the significance of those streets, and those neighborhoods, to the city’s rich diverse and multicultural history?

It is an election year for mayor, do any of the candidates for mayor have the wherewithal and the leadership ability to demonstrate an honest embracing of the diversity of the city of Alamogordo and placing proper honor to that diversity in the naming of city streets?



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