Doubt over the current existence of “Jefferson Davis National Highway” muddles State Board of Names’ decision
By Dana Trumbull
On Monday, September 25, the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names met to consider, not one, but three propositions concerning name changes for US 60, also known as the Jefferson Davis National Highway.
Gold Canyon resident Roberto Reveles had requested that the name “Governor Rose Mofford Memorial Highway” be applied to the entire length of US 60 within Arizona, citing, “Rose Mofford, unlike Jefferson Davis, had a consistent actual connection to US 60, a highway she frequently traveled between her hometown of Globe and the state capitol where she served 37 years as a civil servant and 13 years as an elected and appointed state official. Moreover, the proposed name change would memorialize her uniquely historic significance as the first woman to serve as Arizona’s governor.”
In addition to Reveles’ proposal, community activist Leonard Clark had suggested renaming the highway for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Marisa Scionti and Shannah Redmon had petitioned to remove the name of Jefferson Davis wherever it appears on roadways in the state of Arizona.
The State Board meeting, which normally attracts few observers, was packed with spectators and news crews seeking to ride the recent controversy over confederate memorials. Their attendance, however, was destined for frustration, as the meeting ended with more questions than answers.
Originally, it was US 80 that the Arizona State Highway Commission designated as the Jefferson Davis National Highway in 1961. As explained by State Research Librarian Ryan Ehrfurth, US 80 was decommissioned in 1989, leaving just a short stretch of highway from New Mexico to Benson as State Route 80. The largest portion of what was US 80 became part of US 60. “The question is,” said Ehrfurth, “when US Highway 80 was decommissioned, did the Jefferson Davis name go away, too?”
Although the name, “Jefferson Davis National Highway,” still appears on some (not all) state maps, the Arizona Department of Transportation has stated that no portion of US 60 is officially named for the Civil War Confederate leader.
Reveles acknowledged the convoluted issue in his presentation to the Board: “The clouded history of the Jefferson Davis Highway and its confused relationship to US 60, US 70 and US 80 underscores the need for bringing clarity and authenticity to the name associated with US 60. The unifying Rose Mofford name, more than any other name, clearly meets all the Board’s policies, including the important criteria of appropriateness and acceptability.”
Without any clear cut answers on where or even if Jefferson Davis National Highway still exists, however, State Board Chair Dennis Preisler refused to move forward with any of the proposals. Instead, he directed Ehrfurth to continue his research and instructed Reveles, Clark, Scionti and Redmon to resubmit their paperwork requesting a name change for US 80, rather than for US 60.
The matter will likely be continued in a meeting to be scheduled for next month.
Any decision made by the Board will not affect the Confederate monument that currently sits at the intersection of US 60 and Peralta Trail. The Arizona Department of Transportation seems to be the most likely candidate for authority on the retention or removal of the marker.