The city of Tempe could soon be changing the names of some of its schools, streets and parks after research conducted by city staff found a link to Klu Klux Klan members. In an email, the Tempe Elementary School District informed parents Friday that several schools, parks, streets and historic properties in Tempe are named after people who were members of the KKK.
Three of the district’s schools are named after KKK members, including Gililland Middle School, Hudson Elementary School, and Laird School. The researchers found that Laird, Gililland and Hudson had ties to the KKK. Laird School is named after Hugh E. Laird, who was mayor of Tempe for fourteen years, served in the state legislature and owned a Pharmacy downtown. Laird named streets after his family. Gililland Middle School is named for Clyde Harlan Gililland, who was on the Tempe City Council for thirty years and served one year as mayor. Hudson School and park, as well as Hudson Drive and Hudson Manor neighborhood, are named after Estmer W. Hudson who developed Pima Cotton, a major crop in Arizona’s cotton industry. Hudson school was built on property formerly owned by Hudson and is named after his family.
According to the findings, the deceased men are believed to have paid dues to the KKK’s Tempe chapter. The document, which will be discussed during the Oct. 21 work-study session, says Tempe had a chapter of the KKK in the 1920s called Butte Klan No. 3. Many prominent Tempe citizens including mayors, council members, bank executives, school board members and individuals in various other positions of power were members of the KKK, the memo states.
The district announced that no decision has been made to rename the three schools but the district’s Governing Board policy calls for an inclusive process that will give stakeholders the opportunity to give input on renaming the facilities. The City council also announced Friday that council members will meet to discuss renaming several city parks and streets named after the former KKK members as part of their Oct. 21 work-study session.
“Bringing this issue forward for community awareness and consideration is the right thing to do,” said Andrew Ching, Tempe City Manager, in a statement. “Together we can acknowledge the past and make purposeful decisions that reflect our community values of equality and anti-discrimination.” Ching said in a statement that he will appoint an ad hoc advisory committee to meet and discuss the issue, which will include representatives and community members from many Tempe groups including the Neighborhood Advisory Commission, the African American Advisory Committee, the Tempe Elementary School district and more.
“The city is sensitive to the descendants of the identified people and is reaching out to the family members who have city-owned locations named for their ancestors,” said the city of Tempe in a statement. “The city is committed to ensuring that all dialogue on this important topic is done in safe and respectful ways,” said a statement from the city of Tempe [AZ CENTRAL].