Following a special-called work session Thursday night to discuss the renaming of Booker Dairy Road, the Smithfield Town Council agreed to rename the road to its original name.
In October, the council voted 4-to-3 to rename the future Booker Dairy Road Extension as Ava Gardner Avenue, in recognition of the late film star. Prior to the November 12th board meeting, relatives of Ava Gardner wrote the town council and mayor asking them not to rename the road in her name.
Mary Edna Grimes Grantham, the niece of Ava Gardner, Ava Creech Thompson, the grandniece and Trustee of the Ava Gardner Trust, and K. Todd Johnson, Director of the Johnston County Heritage Center wrote, “We recently learned that you have started a process to change the name of the section of Booker Dairy Road between Buffalo Road and North Brightleaf Boulevard to Ava Gardner Avenue. While we are grateful that you have seen fit to honor our beloved hometown star, we would prefer that her name not be used in the naming of this particular road. There is no known connection between Ms. Gardner and this geographic area, and we feel the renaming of this road would be inappropriate.”
“Highway 70 Business west of the Neuse River would be a more appropriate thoroughfare to bear the name of someone who was once an internationally known movie star and who would have traveled that road many times while growing up and visiting family members here during her lifetime. Her grave and a state highway historical marker in her honor are also located along Highway 70,” the letter stated.
“If it is not possible to rename a section of Highway 70 or perhaps Brogden Road – both of which have direction connections to Ava Gardner – we would simply prefer that her name not be used in a road naming,” they said in a letter to town officials.
After formally receiving the letter Tuesday night, members of the Smithfield Town Council agreed to hold a special work session Thursday night to discuss changing the name from Ava Gardner Avenue.
Thursday night, the council agreed to return the “Booker Dairy Road” name to what was previously Booker Dairy Road.
The new portion of the roadway from the new stop light of the Booker Dairy Road intersection to Highway 301 North was named “Booker Dairy Road Extension” by the town council. The portion previously named “Old Booker Dairy Road” was left unchanged.
The original Ava Gardner Avenue name between Highway 301 North and the rear entrance to Walmart was eliminated. That is now part of what will be called Booker Dairy Road Extension.
Officials hope the three similar road names – Booker Dairy Road, Booker Dairy Road Extension and Old Booker Dairy Road – will not cause any issues for people trying to navigate the area, or when calling 911 to report an emergency.
The roads will officially be renamed when the new Booker Dairy Road Extension opens in December.