A correction has been made to this article.
WINCHESTER — Jubal Early is not going anywhere, at least for the time being.
City Council on Tuesday tabled talks about renaming Jubal Early Drive, saying it needs more time to consider the ramifications.
“What we’re trying to do here is reactive, and I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Councilor Bill Wiley said. “I think we’re going down a road and we don’t know where it will stop.”
Jubal Early Drive, Winchester’s east-west corridor that opened in 1991, has recently come under fire because its namesake, Confederate Civil War Gen. Jubal Early, was a supporter of white supremacy. His post-war defense of the Confederacy’s principles, including slave ownership, inspired what became known as the Lost Cause movement, which romanticized the Confederacy and portrayed Early as a noble defender of the Shenandoah Valley.
National protests against systemic racism following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, led many Americans to re-evaluate their opinions of Confederate commanders, including Early.
Today, there are 80 businesses on Jubal Early Drive that would have to change their signage, marketing materials, letterhead, business cards and more if council selects a new name for the street. No homeowners would be affected because no Winchester residences have a Jubal Early Drive address.
Staff with the city’s Development Services Department recently spoke with 36 business owners on Jubal Early Drive, and 28 of them said it would cost anywhere from $2,000 to upwards of $30,000 to update materials with a new street address. The remaining eight business owners said the costs would be either inconsequential or less than $2,000.
Councilors said it would be unfair to place an extra financial burden on any of the Jubal Early Drive businesses during a global coronavirus pandemic that has caused many firms to lose revenue.
“I definitely want to see something done,” Councilor Kim Herbstritt said, but noted it will take more time for council to determine the best long-term solution.
Councilor Judy McKiernan suggested tabling the subject “until we have weathered this COVID storm,” then involving the public to determine if a majority of citizens want Jubal Early Drive to have a new name.
Councilor John Willingham said McKiernan’s comment constituted a formal motion, which he quickly seconded. That brought council’s discussion to an end and brought McKiernan’s motion to the floor for a vote.
Council voted 7-2 to table its discussions regarding Jubal Early Drive. Evan Clark and Bill Wiley opposed the measure, but did not explain why.
If Jubal Early Drive is renamed, area residents have already suggested numerous alternatives. The name with the most public support so far is Hunter Edwards Drive, which would honor a 30-year-old Winchester Police Department officer who died in a single-vehicle crash on Jubal Early Drive on Nov. 24, 2018, while responding to a call.
On July 16, Winchester Police Chief John R. Piper submitted a letter to City Council encouraging the street to be renamed in memory of Edwards. Every member of his department signed the document.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council work session, which was held via videoconference, were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and members Kim Herbstritt, Corey Sullivan, John Willingham, Les Veach, Judy McKiernan and Bill Wiley.