Washington’s chief cook, Birchmere founder and John McCain considered for new Alexandria street names

Sen. John McCain (photo via John McCain/Facebook)

The City of Alexandria is working on renaming streets honoring Confederate leaders, and now there’s a full list of new potential names to replace them.

The Historic Alexandria Resources Commission compiled a list of roughly 63 names that could replace streets honoring Confederates.

Each item on the list includes a brief biography or information about the names. Some potential street names honor individuals, others honor groups of people — like Native American tribes or a group of suffragists called the Silent Sentinels. Some names represent ideas or local icons, like “Titans” in honor of the Alexandria City High School mascot and “Restoration” to represent that Alexandria was the Restored Capital of Virginia from 1863-1865.

Some of the goals set for the list included focusing on underrepresented people in Alexandria street names, such as women or minorities, and to avoid naming streets after anyone currently living.

Some of those on the list were recently deceased, including:

  • Chet Avery: A blind man who advocated for people with disabilities. Avery was an Alexandria Living Legend and died in 2022
  • Senator John McCain: An Alexandria resident, American politician, Presidential candidate and former prisoner of war. He died in 2018.
  • Kerry Donley: a former Alexandria Mayor from 1996-2003 and Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman from 2003-2005, who died in 2022.
  • Bernard Cohen: the lawyer in the Loving vs. Virginia case, who also represented Alexandria in the Virginia State Legislature. Cohen died in 2020.
  • Lillie Finklea: helped establish the Friends of the Freedmen’s Cemetery in 1997 and helped lead research, public speeches and remembrances to support the cemetery. She died in 2022.
  • Gary Oelze: Founder of the Birchmere Music Hall, died in 2023.
  • Willard Scott: A weather forecaster on the Today Show and the creator/original performer of the Ronald McDonald mascot. He died in 2021.
  • Patsy Ticer: The first woman elected Alexandria mayor in 1991. She died in 2017.
  • Dorothy Evans Turner: A community organizer and activist who died in 2016.
  • Frankie Welch: An Alexandria business owner and designer who designed signature scarves for four First Ladies. She died in 2021.

Several of those on the list were enslaved, including:

  • Ona Judge: Escaped enslavement by the Washington family in 1796 and eluded the Washington family’s efforts to recapture her.
  • Betsey Dogan: Enslaved at birth but gained her freedom before the Civil War. She and her son owned businesses and residences in an area of the city once known as Fishtown.
  • Frederick Douglass: Escaped slavery and became one of the nation’s most famous social reformers and orators.
  • Mary Edmonson and Emily Edmonson: enslaved sisters jailed in Alexandria and later engaged in anti-slavery activism after their freedom.
  • George W. Ford: A U.S. military officer in the Spanish-American War born into slavery at the Mount Vernon plantation.
  • David Jabour: Born enslaved, but purchased his freedom and worked as a potter on Wilkes Street with at least fifteen other free Black artisans.
  • Harriet Jacobs: Abolitionists who established the first free school for Black children in Alexandria in 1864.
  • Hercules Posey: The enslaved chief cook at Mount Vernon. Posey escaped enslavement on 1797 and fled to New York City.

The recommendations are set to go to the City Council sometime in November for review.

Photo via John McCain/Facebook