04/13/2006

Street Named for Klan Victim

Twenty-five years ago, Michael Donald was on his way to the store when two members of the United Klans of America grabbed him, cut his throat and hung his body from a tree on Herndon Avenue in Mobile, Ala.

Donald's killers were convicted and the Center filed a civil suit on behalf of his mother that destroyed the United Klans -- the same group that bombed Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 and murdered civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo in 1965.

The verdict also forced the United Klans to turn over its headquarters to Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald.

This week, Mobile city council members voted to rename Herndon Avenue in honor of Michael Donald.

Donald's family said renaming Herndon Avenue in honor of Michael is an important step for them and the city.

"I'm glad it happened," Dennis Perry, Donald's brother-in-law, told the Mobile Press Register. "Now I can go down Spring Hill and see Michael Donald Avenue. (Before today), that was one street I did not go down."

"It changed our lives forever," said Donald's sister, Cecilia Perry. "There's never really closure, but it gives us comfort in today's world that we could do something like this in his honor."

Councilman William Carroll, who sponsored the resolution, said renaming Herndon Avenue was important not just for Donald's family, but the entire city.

"In Mobile history we memorialize old family names," he said. "From this day forward, Michael Donald will be an old Mobile name."

Michael Donald Avenue runs one block between Old Shell Road and Spring Hill Avenue, just west of downtown.

In Montgomery, Michael Donald's story is the introductory exhibit in the Civil Rights Memorial Center.