Back when Joey Brush was in the Georgia Legislature, one of his better crusades was the effort to prevent public structures from being named after living people.
That philosophy, unfortunately, has been buried, as demonstrated once again this past week with Augusta's judicial center. For politicians, the lure of naming things after their friends is just too enticing to pass up.
Brush's effort started in the midst of an orgy from the then-Democrat Legislature to name everything nailed down after a fellow politician.
It hit rock-bottom when they named a highway after then-U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney. They haven't lived that one down yet (and Georgia's now-Republican majority lacks the guts to un-name it).
Philosophical opposition to naming public structures after the living has a firm footing. If nothing else, it reduces the likelihood that the person honored will later do something dishonorable: The looney McKinney's actions come to mind, but how about the city building in Keysville, Ga., that's awkwardly named for now-imprisoned felon Charles Walker?
Around here, though, defense of the wait-'til-they're-dead policy crumbled not for a Democrat, but for a Republican: Strom Thurmond.
Back in 1988, with support from former Thurmond staffer and then-Augusta Chronicle Editorial Page Editor Phil Kent, Clarks Hill Lake was congressionally renamed J. Strom Thurmond Lake and Dam. Ol' Strom stayed alive 15 more years.
When The Chronicle abandoned its policy of opposing the naming of public facilities for living people, that took the wind out of future philosophical opposition.
With the floodgates open, Augusta politicians since have named a street and an arena after a living person (James Brown), and dedicated a parkway (former state Rep. Jack Connell) and a jail (ex-sheriff Charlie Webster).
So, when some commissioners opposed naming Augusta's new judicial center after retired Judge Jack Ruffin, an immediate explanation was Ruffin's race; they'd given up the substantive argument long ago.
At least Ruffin and other such honorees actually live in Augusta. Columbia County got in on this act back in 1999 when commissioners renamed the street in front of the Government Complex for someone who never set foot here. (Quick: What was Ronald Reagan Drive's original name?)
Other than annoy liberals by continuing to live five more years, at least Reagan did nothing to sully his name before his death in 2004. The person who lobbied Columbia County commissioners to make the change? Well, that was a little different.
Merle Temple is now in federal prison in Memphis, Tenn., serving a 10-year sentence for his role in former state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko's scheme to divert federal funds to her gubernatorial campaign.
To their credit, Columbia County officials who caved in to Temple's persuasion also set up a policy to give preference to people who have been county residents and leans toward those no longer living.
In recent years, they've named a road for a former physician (Pierce Gordon Blanchard) and a community center for a civic leader (Eubank Blanchard) and a street for a former congressman (Charlie Norwood).
But they've also given an "honorary" street name to a physician (Dr. J. Ronald Jowers), while the city of Harlem named its new senior center for a former school board member (Mary Sanders) and Grovetown has a street named for a former mayor (Dennis Trudeau) - all of them wonderful people who are still very much alive.
There is an occasional suggestion that the county's soon-to-be-improved Town Center Park get a better name: The best idea is to name it after the late Ryan Clark. (Thanks, Riverman.)
I can't imagine any reason for disagreement, philosophical or otherwise.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.