Relatives Of Ava Gardner Ask Town To Reconsider New Road Name

In a 4-to-3 vote on Oct. 1st, members of the Smithfield Town Council voted to rename the future Booker Dairy Road Extension as Ava Gardner Avenue.  Some members of the council had suggested Ava Gardner Parkway but the board settled on Ava Gardner Avenue.   The new road is set to open by the end of this year.   The road naming decision is now up in the air.

During the Nov. 12th monthly meeting, Town Manager Michael Scott presented council members with a copy of a letter addressed to the Town asking the road not be named after the late film star.

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.

A state historical marker on Highway 70 in Smithfield honoring the late Ava Gardner.

“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.”

Board members of the Ava Gardner Museum are also reportedly opposed to the proposed naming.

After receiving the letter Tuesday night, Mayor Andy Moore recommended the council hold a special work session this Thursday evening, Nov. 14th at 6:30pm at the Smithfield Town Hall to discuss the prior decision to rename Booker Dairy Road as Ava Gardner Avenue.

While the NC DOT is constructing the road extension,  it is the town’s responsibility to name the new road.  Under the October decision, the existing section of M. Durwood Stephenson Highway from W. Market Street to Buffalo Road will not be changed, only from Buffalo Road to the new intersection with N. Brightleaf will the roadway have a new name.

The renaming will impact several homes and businesses including the State Employees Credit Union, Awakening Church, Neuse Charter School, Grace Community Assembly of God, Smithfield Selma High, and the Smithfield Recreations & Aquatics Center (SRAC).

The 6:30pm Thursday meeting to readdress the new road name is open to the public.