Johnson County Considers Changing its Namesake (But Not Its Name)
It's a discussion apparently dating back to at least 2017. Should Johnson County change its namesake?
Recent events have brought the discussion back as the county was originally named after Richard Mentor Johnson, who was Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren--but was also a slaveholder.
Because of this, Johnson County supervisors, who say they intend to keep the county's name the same, are looking into other, less controversial figures they can declare the namesake. Blues musician Robert Johnson and civil rights leader James Johnson are among the possibilities.
A hugely popular choice, however, is Lulu Merle Johnson. She, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen was born in Gravity, Iowa, and was the second African American woman in U.S. history to earn a doctorate degree in history--the first to do so in Iowa.
Petitioners are calling for her to become the namesake, and regardless of who it becomes named after, if a change is made, Tim Welch who is a historian and former director of the Herbert Hoover Library & Museum says in the Press-Citizen, the process and legalities of the change shouldn't take much.
"The legal issue is that it is referred to as Johnson County, but it doesn't speak to the question of whether it is Richard Mentor Johnson or some other Johnson".
Monuments representing historic figures with racial ties continue to be torn down worldwide. Companies are changing or revamping product names and lines with historically racial connections. Should a change in who Johnson County is named after follow suit, based on the namesake's slavery ties?
It's also noted that Richard Mentor Johnson is not an Iowa native. He was born in Kentucky.