Third Street May Become B.B. King Blvd. 

Land Use Control Board to consider name change this week.

Most would agree that, without B.B. King, Beale Street could not have achieved its glory. And likewise, King had Beale to thank for much of his success.

Now the two might literally intersect if a proposal is approved to change the name on part of Third Street to B.B. King Boulevard.

A proposal to change Third, from E.H. Crump on the south to Chelsea on the north, to B.B. King Boulevard has been sent to the Land Use Control Board for approval. The application will be voted on by the board on Thursday, August 13th.

The idea of dedicating a street to King, who passed away on May 14th at the age of 90, came from Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones Jr. Jones wrote a Facebook post on May 18th suggesting that a street renaming occur on Third all the way to the Mississippi state line. The post gained traction and attention from Mayor A C Wharton's office and Congressman Steve Cohen.

click to enlarge Beale and Third - ALAINA GETZENBERG
  • Alaina Getzenberg
  • Beale and Third

At the end of May, around the time of a celebration that occurred in King's honor in Memphis, City Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Maura Sullivan submitted the official application on behalf of the mayor's office.

"We had a lot of support for the name change as soon as it was announced," Sullivan said. "We even heard from as far away as London. People were excited to see Memphis reaching up and stepping out to honor B.B. King, someone who meant so much to the city of Memphis."

Not everyone immediately jumped on board, however.

Third Street was given a memorial designation as James L. Netters Parkway in 1991 in honor of civil rights advocate Reverend James L. Netters. Upon the announcement of intentions to name the street B.B. King Boulevard, Reverend Netters, Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones, and some citizens of Memphis expressed concerns that the designation already given to the street would be taken away.

So a compromise was reached. Netters Parkway is designated from Crump to the Mississippi state line, and B.B. King Boulevard, if approved, will run from Crump north to Chelsea.

Some have suggested that a different street be renamed, but Jones says the symbolism that Third provides cannot be ignored.

"Third Street is a part of Beale and Highway 61 — the Blues Highway," Fred Jones said. "It is the route that not only B.B. King came out of the Delta on, but other blues musicians did as well. Third is through the middle of town and takes you right past Beale Street."

Renaming Third Street will require the replacement of 35 metro street name signs and 35 post-mounted street name signs, a change that will cost $24,500. In addition, the name change will require businesses along the route to make a change in address. However, the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development received no objections from the 92 notices that were mailed out to property owners.

While changing the name of a street for only three miles may not have a massive physical impact, the hope is that what it symbolizes does make a difference.

"I hope that B.B. would be very honored and pleased," Sullivan said. "Just being able to pay honor to a man whose music and story was so important to the City of Memphis is such an amazing thing."

Jones thinks King would be pleased.

"I've known B.B. King since the '70s," Fred Jones said. "He was very appreciative of everything, and he would be thrilled to have his name at an intersection of Beale."

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