Update, 10/15/2020, 3:30 p.m.: the council approved Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria’s resolution to create a list of city assets named for individuals and examine their past for racism or bigotry. The motion passed 4-1, with Garry Bredefeld voting no, and Mike Karbassi and Paul Caprioglio not recording votes.

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Could names of well-known parks and buildings in Fresno change?

City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria is proposing a resolution at Thursday’s meeting that would prohibit the naming of city facilities “after a cultural or historic figure known to be racist or bigoted.”

“We want to make sure that we are on the right track to ensure that we are not naming any facilities in the future behind any one that is racist or bigoted.”Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria

It could also apply to current city buildings and parks.

We don’t really have a process in place currently. So we thought that it would be great for our historic commission to review it, study and then make a recommendation to the council,” Soria said. “We want to make sure that we are on the right track to ensure that we are not naming any facilities in the future behind any one that is racist or bigoted.”

Her resolution would task the Historic Preservation Commission with reviewing current facility names, looking into the backgrounds of those who have received the naming honor.

Soria’s motivation was the revelation that John Euless, a 1920s business figure in Fresno — for whom the baseball field Euless Park at Fresno City College is named — was a member of the KKK.

Two Fresno historians GV Wire℠ spoke with welcome the examination.

Historians the Right People to Investigate

Karana Hattersley-Drayton served as Historic Preservation Officer for the city of Fresno from 2002-2017. She says the HPC is the right place to turn to for examining historical figures.

The seven-member board is tasked with preserving historic resources in Fresno.

“There’s a lot of very smart, caring people in the historic community. And so there will be a lot of good discussion,” Hattersley-Drayton said.

Elizabeth Laval, president of the Fresno County Historical Society, agreed.

“I believe that these committees are going to go forward with the best interests of the community at heart. The people that are being convened will be representative. They’ll be judicious. They’ll be well considered,” Laval said.

One potential challenge in renaming a park, Hattersley-Drayton noted, is if the naming was a condition of a gift of funds or property from an individual or family. There are several parks in Fresno, including Woodward and Roeding, that meet that description.

Another complication could be the Meux Home, which is owned by the city, but operated by a non-profit. The protocol is to name a historic home after its builder. Thomas Meux built the downtown house, now a museum, in 1889. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Meux served as a doctor for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Looking Back with a 2020 Lens

Both Hattersley-Drayton and Laval said the HPC and council would need to balance their view of history with a 2020 perspective.

“The notion of racism and bigotry changes. What we didn’t even think about as racist 10 years ago or 20 years ago, much less longer, has changed. We have to be aware and be careful about responding to emotions of a time,” Hattersley-Drayton said.

Laval advised looking ahead to how things may be perceived in the future when naming a building or park after a person.

“It’s very difficult to know which lens the future will judge people from the past because the line changes, doesn’t it? The line changes, it moves. If we think it’s going to stop now, that’s insane,” Laval said. “Don’t shoot for the short game. Look down the line to the future and consider what lens will people be looking back at us in 50 years.”

KKK’s Fresno History Examined

In 2017, Geoffrey A. Ramirez — then a student at San Francisco State — published a history of the KKK in Fresno. The organization was active in the 1920s, led by Dr. L. F. Luckie.

Ramirez reported on Euless’ KKK affiliation. As Euless became a prominent businessman in town, his history with the KKK seemed to be whitewashed.

“The Fresno Klan was a branch of a fraternity which promoted racism, participated in mob violence, and attempted political manipulation of cities and states. These facts are damning and should not be ignored when  analyzing any part of the Invisible Empire,” Ramirez wrote.

Of the names Ramirez mentioned, or those on a list published in a 1922 Fresno Republican newspaper story he cites, none appear to have any city facilities named after them.

10 Responses

  1. MGomez

    Would Soria be happy if all white people stop donating money to charities in Fresno?

  2. Billy

    Esmeralda hates Fresno and America . Hell she is not from Fresno from Tulare County…she is here for a specific destroy & rob

  3. Ruchard

    Do something constructive like clean up the district you supposedly represent. It’s done nothing but go down hill since you were elected. Thank you for

  4. Paul Stelljes

    Do we really have to join in this attempt to rewrite history? Who is offended, besides professional trouble-makers?

  5. LC

    I find it sad that people are trying to destroy the past. These places are named for the good that the person did, not the mistakes they made. He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone. No one is perfect. Look at the good and quit trying to dredge up so much negativity.

  6. James

    As one that has researched Fresno History here is a sample of the streets which are city assets that will need to be renamed based on my historical discoveries:
    Blackstone Ave – named after William Blackstone who is the backbone jurist of the current criminal justice system
    Shaw Ave – named after William T Shaw former Fresno Police Chief, farmer, and known to have regularly harass minorities (including Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Armenians, and Native American) in the early 1900s by having them work their jail time off by farming his ranch located where Shaw Ave is today.
    Dunn Ave – grandfather of Mayor Gordon Dunn and had a hand in requiring Chinese to locate west of the railroad tracks in Fresno
    Irwin Ave – after Dr. Irwin, known KKK member
    McKenzie Ave – After William H McKenzie, city founding father of both Millerton and Fresno and forced all Asians and Native Americans out of Millerton.
    There are at least another 20-30 streets including other major avenues that would need to be reviewed and recommendation made.
    Not stating what the answer should or should not be but noting that this will open a massive can of worms.

    • Billy

      Eyewitnesses?, videos, photos? Or opinions? These are not facts you state “James” they are opnions.based on who? conveniently written years after these people died, List the sources so we can determine if they are motivated by the Progressive Left AOC agenda that Esmeralda Soria of Lindsay, CA so admires. In fact, admires AOC so much her and her partner in crime Arias of Mendota by way of Mexico got on an airplane flew back to Washington DC to give her gifts and invite this little tool to Fresno. Great how non Fresno people think they can re write history when they have destroyed the districts they were elected to fix.
      Isn’t that historical Armenian Town that has burnt down in Ariass district under his watch? I hear he picked melons for Armenian farmers and is of the belief farmers subjugate farmworkers to abuse and take advantage of them. Arias has taken in the plight of rural farmworkers milking millions out of the county of Fresno for rural farmworkers out of his jurisdiction.
      I am sure for every negative you researched there is positives about all these street names too. Frankly I am not willing to spend tax dollars to rename streets you handful of so called ” historians” dubb as bad figures.
      Soon the only names left to name streets or stadiums after will be Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse…..then you clowns will find that is capitalism and exploitation of animals. Go find something better to do like investigate Arias and Soria for mismanagement of public funds. Start with their low cost housing developments and friends who receive the millions at Unidos Barrios and Healthy Neighborhoods you know the Sandra Celedon who tweeted out ” Burn it down” or her second in command that ” dates” Miguel Arias .
      BTW you conveniently attack ” anglo ” names maybe you should check history of Luis Valdez name if our exhibit hall at the Fresno convention Center …he had quite a history of drunkenness and frequent visitor to prostitutes. Don’t stop there research William Saroyan and his questionable life,….we could go on and on .

  7. Greeka

    I would like to know who is suppose to represent district 7 in Fresno. This district is NOT receiving proper attention/care.


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