Jackson City Council to rename Ellis Avenue after Bluesman Bobby Rush

Bobby Rush at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, 1150 Lakeland Drive
Bobby Rush at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, 1150 Lakeland Drive Jackson, Mississippi 39216. Photos for the album "Sitting on top of the Blues." © photo by Bill Steber(Bill Steber | source: Bill Steber)
Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 11:34 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Bobby Rush was given a standing ovation as he approached the podium.

He came to speak to the Jackson City Council, to thank them for considering an ordinance to rename a street after him.

The city is considering renaming Ellis Avenue to Bobby Rush Boulevard, in honor of the two-time Grammy winner.

“I never dreamed that I would have this honor from you guys, to name this street after me. I’ve been up for Grammy six times and won two of them,” he said.

Rush, who said he’s recorded 398 records, said he no longer tells his age, “I’m over 85 but not quite 90,” but did share several stories of the racism he and his family experienced in the Jim Crow South.

“I’m in tears because I remember three white guys, two riding a horse and one guy leading a horse, when my daddy was getting hay out of a barn as a black man. They asked my mom, ‘what are you doing with this n-word.? [And she said,] ‘that’s what I am too,’ he said. “She had to go into the store and prove she was a Black woman to save my daddy’s life.”

An ordinance to rename the street was introduced at the April 27 meeting. The ordinance is expected to be expedited through the approval process and will be amended to rename Ellis Avenue from Belvedere Drive to Woodrow Wilson Avenue.

City Attorney Monica Allen said before the ordinance can be passed, several steps have to be taken, including notifying businesses along the roadway of the potential change.

The council initially considered renaming a smaller stretch of Ellis after the legendary performer but was told by Planning Director Jordan Hillman that it would be less expensive to rename the entire street.

Council members had no qualms about following the planning director’s advice.

Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who also suggested renaming the entire street after Rush, said he’s glad the city has its own Bluesman to represent it.

“We love B.B., he was always talking about Mississippi. But now we’ve got somebody to talk about Jackson and we’re proud of it,” he said. “I thank the president for coming up with the idea because a lot of people love you.”

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