05/17/2006

Street Renamed in Ceremony to Honor Klan Victim

A Mobile, Ala., street was officially renamed Michael Donald Avenue in a ceremony yesterday in honor of the black teenager who was murdered by the Klan and left hanging from a tree there in 1981.

Donald was 19 when he was abducted as he walked to a convenience store. Members of the United Klans of America beat him, cut his throat and hung his body in a camphor tree. One Klansman was convicted of Donald's death and executed in 1997. Two others were sentenced to prison terms.

In 1984, the Southern Poverty Law Center sued the United Klans and won a $7 million jury verdict. The Klan had few assets but was forced to turn over its headquarters building to Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald. The award is widely credited for putting the Klan group, notorious for its violence in the 1960s, out of business.

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

The Mobile City Council unanimously voted last month to rename Herndon Avenue after Donald's family requested the change and a petition supporting the new name was signed by the street's residents. Michael Donald Avenue is a one-block street between Old Shell Road and Springhill Avenue, just west of downtown.

"This is a reminder to put away our prejudices, to be inclusive to everyone and to love our neighbors," Councilman William Carroll said at the ceremony, the Mobile Register reported.