Harris Street renamed in honor of John Portman

And yes, race came up during the discussions

The Atlanta City Council yesterday narrowly approved the renaming a downtown street to honor John Portman, a renowned architect and developer credited with building much of Atlanta’s skyline. And also arguably eradicating much of Atlanta’s street life with self-contained, multi-use skyscrapers connected by gerbil chutes, but that’s a different story. The final vote was 8-6.

If Mayor Kasim Reed OKs the changes, downtown’s Harris Street will be renamed “John Portman Boulevard at Historic Harris Street.” The sign’s ridiculous length is expected to clothesline many, many tourists.

How’d Portman’s supporters convince councilmembers to OK Council President Ceasar Mitchell’s months-long initiative, which has been staunchly opposed by downtown residents and preservationists who’ve grown tired of seeing Atlanta’s history slowly erased by politicians eager to curry favor with influential, living people?

They nosedived into the Internet and dug up dirt about John L. Harris, the Civil War-era lawmaker and judge for whom Harris Street was named, and asked former U.S. Ambassador and Mayor Andrew Young to deliver the message to City Council. Young claimed Harris was “one of the most ruthless killers and advocates of racism, secession from the Union, and the brutal destruction of people of African descent.” (We’d heard from downtown sources that Portman’s supporters might have actually confused John L. Harris with J.N. Harris, another former state lawmaker from Murray County, on some points.) Reports 11 Alive’s Jon Shirek: