Legislators work to rename Highway 30, 334 after local Black community leaders

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, February 2, 2022

State legislators are working on a plan to rename a portion of Highway 30 and Highway 334 after the late African-American community leaders Nathan Hodges, Jr. and Leonard E. Thompson who had served the city of Oxford for over 50 years.

Highway 30 will be named after Hodges and Highway 334 after Thompson.

On Tuesday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a resolution in support of renaming the major city roadways after a request from Senator Nicole Boyd.

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Boyd said the idea for renaming both highways was a product of the families of Hodges and Thompson and Alderman Keisha Howell-Atkinson, who spearheaded the plan and worked with the Highway Department on the designation. 

According to the senator, the board of aldermen’s approval was the first step in getting the plan in front of state legislators.

“There’s a plan and we’ll be working to get those sections named and I’m delighted to do this,” said Boyd. “Keisha Howell contacted me about this and she’s done a tremendous amount of work on getting this done.”

The family of Hodges and Thompson began this initiative through a request to the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The legislature will rename portions of the roadways within the corporate limits of the city of Oxford. Renaming both highways is intended to honor both Hodges and Thompson for their services to the Lafayette County-Oxford-University community.

Growing up in Oxford, Boyd was one of the many people who were affected by Hodges and Thompson’s acts of service. She even received tutelage under their families.

“These two gentlemen, growing up, were a huge part of the Lafayette County community and not just them but their spouses as well,” Boyd said. “Mr. Hodges’ wife was my 5th grade teacher and Mr. Thompson’s wife was my guidance counselor, my mentor and a dear friend when I was at the junior high school as the school counselor.”

The families and community will be honored once they make this designation, she said.

“Moreover, I’m thrilled to honor the Thompson and the Hodges families,”

Hodges began his career in Oxford in 1934 and established himself in the community by opening the first African American owned business in Lafayette County and operating that business for over 80 years.

A World War II veteran, Hodges began his career as an embalmer and mortician at L. Hodges Funeral Service. His daughter LaVera Hodges joined the family business and officially took over after her father’s passing in 2002.

According to the agenda, Hodges served the LOU community through leadership roles with the Three Rivers Planning Board and the Parks and Recreation Board, and founded the Lafayette County Improvement Club in 1952 at the Second Baptist Church in Oxford, which later became the first NAACP Chapter in Lafayette County.

Thompson was a valuable member of the LOU community since establishing his family in Oxford in 1962. His achievements include serving as the first African American United States probation officer in the State of Mississippi.

Thompson is noted for having left an indelible mark on the community through his leadership positions in education, public service, and church.