It took aldermen all of 10 minutes to review and approve the street corner name change Tuesday night, but for the church communities of Hill and Fair Haven, it was a move almost 30 years in the making.
With Tuesday night’s city services and environmental services committee hearing, the corner of Congress Avenue and Hillock street officially became known as the “Bishop Clinton and Pastor Julia McCarter Corner” after the couple who founded Deliverance Temple Pentecostal Church at Congress Avenue 30 years ago. Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James, who originally petitioned the board for the name change, said the church — along with the Clinton House rehabilitation center and the outreach ministry center, which the McCarters also established — lends “vital spiritual and physical support” to residents of the Hill and Fair Haven.
Ron Hurt, director of the outreach ministry center, was one of the several people to testify in front of the committee as they reviewed the petition for the corner name.
“This application was long overdue,” Hurt said, adding that the pastor and her late husband transformed many lives. “Not to sound political, but the community also became a better tax bracket, because people were in a better state of mind to seek out employment.”
Robert Dodsen and his wife Joanne Carter Williams spoke at the hearing about how the church helped them find a job. Now a minister-in-training, Dodsen was homeless two years ago, when Pastor Julia said, “Sugar, we got to put you somewhere,” Dodsen told the committee. She was responsible for finding him shelter, helping him receive his driver’s license and getting him involved in the congregation where he met his wife. Williams had been involved with the bishop and pastor longer than her husband — she said she turned to them and the church in 1984 as a drug addict.
“Some people would call [McCarter] bad things, like a pimp, because he didn’t care who he helped and he was willing to ride anyone in his car,” Williams said. Now a teacher at the church, she told the committee that “his teachings are still with me.
For some, the McCarters were less like church leaders and more like family. James said she fondly remembers calling Clinton’s mother “Mama McCarter” while growing up in Fair Haven. Julia McCarter often cut James’ hair at the beauty salon she operated in the area, and the “loving” Bishop McCarter was there to help out when her father became unemployed.
“Congress Avenue in the 1960s and ’70s was probably the worst street in the area,” James said at the hearing. “That it’s now so stable is [the McCarters’] legacy that they’ve given this community.”
There was considerable support from the community for the application to change the street corner name, James said, adding that over 300 people signed the petition. The testimonies made an impression: chair of the committee and Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 said he was “touched” and that he “definitely learned something tonight.”
The street corner name change was passed by the five-member committee, and it now heads for a final vote by the full board.
In order to change a street corner, petitioners need to obtain 250 signatures — two-thirds of which must be from the neighborhood in question — and pay $250.