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Council kills Proby street plan

click to enlarge Former District 11 school board president Norvell - Simpson was disappointed that City Council rejected - honoring Milton Proby. - DAN WILCOCK
  • Dan Wilcock
  • Former District 11 school board president Norvell Simpson was disappointed that City Council rejected honoring Milton Proby.

Following weeks of controversy, City Council halted a plan this week to rename Fountain Boulevard after renowned African-American pastor and civil rights leader Milton Proby, who died in May.

By an 8 to 1 vote, with Councilman Richard Skorman the only member opposed, Council on Tuesday rejected a Planning Commission recommendation to approve the change.

"We're in the exact same place we were 23 years ago," said James Proby, Milton Proby's son, referring to a his father's failed attempt in 1982 to have Fountain Boulevard renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The idea of renaming the six-mile, east-west Colorado Springs thoroughfare sparked bitter debate between those who feel the city doesn't properly honor its minority leaders and residents and business owners along the strip who said the change would be costly and confusing.

Milton Proby ministered in Colorado Springs for almost five decades and became a civil rights icon in Colorado during the 1960s, when he fought for social justice and helped to quell race riots.

A majority of Council members said it was essential to find some kind of memorial for Proby, but only Skorman said changing the street name would be "absolutely the right thing to do."

Among the opponents of the name change was Denise Young Smith, the daughter of recently deceased Leon Young, who briefly served a stint as the city's first African-American mayor. "There is no pressing need to make such a historical departure," she said.

Council instructed the city staff to clarify its street renaming process and to find an alternative memorial proposal for Proby by the end of January. Despite his vote, Vice Mayor Larry Small said, "I agree we don't properly honor our heroes."

-- Dan Wilcock

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