Kansas City officials on Tuesday voted to strip the name of one of the city’s most influential developers from a city fountain and street because he barred Blacks and Jews from the neighborhoods he developed in the 1900s.
The process of removing J.C. Nichols’ name started in response to protests over racial injustice, sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee onto the handcuffed Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes.
The unanimous vote by the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation will remove the name from the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain and an adjacent parkway running alongside the Country Club Plaza, which Nichols developed. It is the most recognizable fountain in the “City of Fountains” and a well-known gathering places for tourists, special events and protesters.
The city will continue taking suggestions for new names for the fountain and street until at least July 7. The street will temporarily be known as Mill Creek Parkway.
Board commissioner Chris Goode, who proposed the removal, said the vote was “a gesture, not a solution” to racial problems in the city. He noted a 4-year-old Black child, LeGend Taliferro, was killed Monday when someone shot into his home.
Goode said the boy’s shooting might not seem connected to protests over Floyd’s death, but he called it part of a “big pot of muck” stemming from hatred in the U.S. and Kansas City.
“So while it may seem unrelated, we have an opportunity today to just make a gesture toward what is right,” Goode said. “It’s not a moment for celebration but a moment to open dialogue. A very, very important moment for long overdue dialogue in this city and in this country.”
The change comes as protesters around the country demand the removal of statues and other monuments because of complaints they honor people with racists views.
Supporters of removing Nichols’ name noted he used deed restrictions to keep Blacks, Jews and other minorities from buying his homes, relegating them to poorer neighborhoods and helping to create a racially divided city. Nichols also was influential nationally, with developers elsewhere following his practices.
The effort to remove the name drew widespread support, with no organized opposition. No one spoke against the motion at Tuesday’s meeting. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and some influential business and tourism organizations also voiced support for the idea.
Hours before the vote, descendants of Nichols and the Miller Nichols Charitable Trust, issued a statement saying they supported renaming the fountain and street. Miller Nichols was J.C. Nichols son.
“This is a defining moment for our city,” said J.C. Nichols’ great-grandson Mark Callison. “Our family stands squarely behind the spirit of diversity, equality and social justice that has taken hold in our region and in our nation. My grandfather, Miller, taught us these values.”