Norman City Councilwoman To Raise Money For DeBarr Street Renaming

Dec 13, 2017

In anticipation of a Norman City Council vote to rename a street named after a deceased Ku Klux Klan member, a city councilwoman says she’ll cover the costs of the renaming herself.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Breea Clark is planning to start a GoFundMe to pay for administrative fees associated with renaming DeBarr Avenue, as well as new street signs. She also hopes to pay for other costs, like updating residents’ driver’s licenses, legal documents and checkbooks, if she raises enough funds.

“I think this was an important conversation for our community to have. It is by no means over, but I think we’re ready to put DeBarr behind us,” Clark said in a phone interview.

Clark told KGOU that she plans to donate her own money to the fund, and that many members of the community, including Mayor Lynne Miller, have also said they will contribute. Clark plans to start the GoFundMe immediately after the City Council meeting on Dec. 19.

A spokeswoman for the city of Norman said the administrative fee for renaming the street would be $200, and the total cost of replacing street signs would be between $40 and $50.

Last week, 75 percent of property owners on DeBarr Avenue signed a petition to rename the street Dean’s Row Avenue. The City Council will vote on whether to approve the petition on Dec. 19.

The council originally considered amending the city’s street renaming policy so such a petition would no longer be necessary. Clark says the city will still consider the change, so citizens can more easily change street names in the future.

“I don’t want us to have to go through that again, should something like this come up,” Clark said. “It’s kind of a gamble to name streets after people at this point, because we’re finding a lot about our past.”

Edwin DeBarr was an administrator at the University of Oklahoma in the early 20th century--and a prominent KKK member. The street bearing his name adjoins the university campus, where students have protested his legacy since the 1980s.

OU students, many of whom were African-American and Native American, were among the demonstrators who spoke in favor of renaming DeBarr Avenue at a Norman City Council meeting in October.

Clark organized a petition to bring attention to DeBarr Ave. earlier this year, and she says the issue has sparked a productive conversation.

“I think it was very important for those residents and protestors to have the opportunity, to have the forum, to come to City Council and speak about what an inclusive community means to them,” Clark said.

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