Dunbar name change still up to debate for council

Published 1:44 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Greenville City Council is still considering a proposal from Dunbar Community Center’s founders to change the name of the longtime recreational facility to honor the late W.J. Longmire.

A public hearing on Monday night brought both supporters and opposition to the name change, which was first proposed in September by one of Dunbar’s founders Eugene Hudson.

“This truly is a community center – it is used for Gospel singings, wedding receptions, political meetings and basketball games,” said Hudson. “There are other people who helped bring Dunbar into being, but their credentials are not as extensive as Mr. W.J. Longmire’s.”

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Longmire was part of the nine-person committee that helped found the Dunbar Recreation Community Center.

Dunbar is named for Paul Laurence Dunbar, the son of ex-slaves. He was born in 1872 and was the first African-American to gain national fame for his poetry, but lived to be only 33 years old.

A resolution presented to the city by Hudson stated that Longmire served as a professor at Lomax-Hannon High School in the 1940s, providing clothes and food for the needy while also educating blacks in Greenville and Butler County. Among numerous other accomplishments, the resolution credited Longmire for establishing the first state-supported senior day care center for the elderly in Greenville, bringing the county’s first Head Start program to Butler County in 1965, and securing local merchants to provide food, clothes and toys to poor children during the holidays.

Eddie Milner, who lived near Longmire, recalled a gracious and well-respected man.

“I never knew Mr. Longmire to mistreat anyone who came to his house,” said Milner.

But Jimmy Lee Crum, District 4 Commissioner, said he had reservations about changing the name. Crum said since Longmire served for years at Lomax-Hannon College then that is where a building with his name on it should be.

“What qualifies Mr. Longmire’s name to be on that center (Dunbar)?” He asked.

Lula Cannedy, the widow of James Cannedy, did not dispute Longmire’s accomplishments, but said if the council was seriously considering changing the name of Dunbar then her late husband should also be considered.

“James was truly a community servant,” he said. “If the name is going to be changed it should be to someone who served everybody in Greenville.”

Mayor Dexter McLendon remembered Cannedy as an umpire for youth league baseball games, as well as someone who always had boundless energy.

“But no question we’re talking about two great men here,” said McLendon. “Both Mr. Longmire and Mr. Cannedy.”

McLendon said a decision on the name change would not be made until the council had given the proposal ample consideration.