June 9, 2018 10:00:41 PM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
Roosevelt Taylor has lived on Beattie Street in Starkville for more than 70 years. Now, he lives on Roosevelt Taylor Sr. Drive.
It's the same street, but on Tuesday, the Starkville Board of Aldermen officially named it in Taylor's honor.
Taylor, 93, is a longtime Starkville resident, World War II veteran and businessman. The street where he lives connects West Main Street to Highway 182.
The West Main Community Association initiated the endeavor to rename that street in February, after learning that Taylor was named an honorary Tuskegee Airman in the Claude R. Platte DFW Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
"We had a number of those who feel like my dad has been a pillar of the community who has given of himself," Taylor's daughter, Diane Singleton, said. "At 17 years old, he went to World War II, just as a kid, but fighting to have a better life."
Taylor served in the U.S. Army during World War II, spending 21 months in Europe. Taylor said he joined the Army to follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers and, in the process, find a better life for himself and his family. Taylor ended up being one of four brothers who all served in World War II, two in the Army and two in the Navy.
Taylor said he served in France, where he worked as a truck driver and drove prisoners of war to and from prison camps. While he was injured partway through his deployment, he stayed in France for roughly another year to recover before returning to the United States. After returning home, he operated his own businesses, including a taxi cab company and a shoe shop in downtown Starkville.
"He's very well respected in the community," said Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, whose ward Beattie Street is part of. "He was a cab driver for a long time. I'm 65 years old and as long as I've known him, he's been on that street. He's always been a respectable community man."
Singleton credited Emil Lovley, a longtime friend of Taylor's and president of the West Main association, with leading the charge to have Beattie Street renamed in Taylor's honor.
"Mr. Lovely decided that was such an honor and was trying to think of what they could do," Singleton said. "He's worked tirelessly and effortlessly to get this done."
Singleton said the association contacted Vaughn, who helped them get in touch with the proper city personnel in the Community Development Department to proceed with the name change.
Lovely said the street name went through several iterations before settling on Roosevelt Taylor Sr. Drive.
As part of the effort, the association had to collect signatures from homeowners on Beattie Street in support of the change. Singleton said the effort received overwhelming support from the street's homeowners.
One letter, from Charles Ware, a longtime Beattie Street resident and himself a military veteran, offered strong support.
"This neighborhood was initially established by WWII and Korean War veterans," Ware said in his letter. "A number of the offspring of these veterans are also veterans.
"Mr. Taylor should be recognized," Ware continued. "He is the only surviving member of the original neighborhood group, the WWII group, and he remains to this day a pillar of the community."
Taylor also received letters of support from community businesses and his church. He said he was thankful for all of them.
"It makes me feel grateful," he said.
Lovely said he was proud of the community for coming together, in such a short amount of time, to support Taylor.
"I'm really proud of it," he said. "The community stepped up. Our organization stepped up and got the signatures we required. We started this in February and now it's come to pass."
Singleton also said she was thankful for the support her father received from the community.
"We definitely want to give our thanks to all those persons in the community," she said. "The businesses, the churches -- all the people who showed compassion for my dad and helping him to achieve this accomplishment."
Vaughn lauded the West Main association for its efforts and said he was thrilled with the recognition. While the street name has been approved, and Vaughn said the city is in the process of getting new signs made, he noted it will take about 90 days before the name change is official to allow for postal adjustments.
"It's always best to honor people and recognize them while they're still living," Vaughn said. "A majority of the time, they never get recognized 'til they're dead and gone. It's a great honor for his family to be able to see him being recognized."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.