WINCHESTER — A petition signed by all members of the Winchester Police Department seeks to change the name of Jubal Early Drive to Hunter Edwards Drive in honor of the officer who fatally crashed on the road in 2018 while responding to a call about a street fight.
The 30-year-old Stephens City resident, who was a city police officer for four years, hydroplaned in his cruiser on an icy patch of the street while en route to assist fellow officers. His death triggered an outpouring of grief in the department and community.
“The men and women of the police department have not forgotten Officer Edwards,” Police Chief John R. Piper wrote in a July 16 letter to City Council. “We ask that you allow this community to join us in ensuring his life and legacy are remembered and memorialized properly, so that future generations know the ultimate sacrifice that Officer Edwards made for the city of Winchester and its citizens.”
The road was named for Early, a Confederate general, in 1991, but there is effort to rename the street because he was an unrepentant supporter of slavery. The move comes amid an effort to remove Confederate names nationwide from public places.
Piper wrote that Edwards was a loyal friend, husband and loving father in addition to being a good cop. “While some may feel that council should not rename this street after another person, we could not disagree more. This would, in fact, be an appropriate and lasting tribute to a great man and outstanding police officer who gave everything to Winchester!”
Some don’t believe the road should be renamed at all.
City Council is scheduled to continue its discussion about the road’s name at its meeting on Tuesday.
Numerous names have been suggested to replace Jubal Early. Among the most popular choices are, according to a city survey, Meadow Branch, Patsy Cline, Abrams Creek, Magnolia and Winchester. Also suggested are: Thomas Laws, the slave who smuggled information to the Union Army that helped defeat Early at the Third Battle of Winchester; Spottswood Poles, an outstanding Negro League outfielder from Winchester and decorated World War 1 veteran, and Dr. Sara Winifred Brown, a prominent African American physician, Winchester native and professor of gynecology at Howard University.