Loudoun’s New Rt. 7, Rt. 50 Names Chosen

Two of the most prominent—and congested—monuments to racist and Confederate figures in Loudoun will be renamed to their historic monikers following a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Rt. 7, named for segregationist lawmaker and state governor Harry Byrd Sr., will be renamed to Leesburg Pike, and Rt. 50, named for Confederate Col. John Singleton Mosby, will be renamed Little River Turnpike. Both are names those roads had before. Final authority to approve the changes lies with the state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.

“I want to express my deep gratitude that we are changing names of Route 7 and 50. The names of these roads were changed decades ago to honor people who should not be honored, people who would not want me sitting here today,” said Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run), a Black woman. “I’m glad we’re returning to the original names of the roads, as they make both practical and historical sense for our county.”

Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) said the cost of that renaming—estimated around $621,000 to replace the road signs—is a worthy use of taxpayer dollars.

“Taxpayer dollars were used during Jim Crow, during the ‘60s, all the way into the ‘80s, to name these roads after folks that, in my opinion, didn’t deserve it, and they were renamed as a way to remind citizens of Loudoun County of their oppression, that maybe certain citizens don’t belong,” Briskman said. “So I’m very happy and proud that we are using some of our resources to rectify that situation.”

“I will say that there have been very valid questions asked, and I think the most valid question is, how will that impact the business owners on Rt. 50? Because that’s … their address of their business. And that name is on—that address is on trucks and business cards and all kinds of things,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “And we are addressing that so that … it does not cost the business owners money.”

Supervisors’ vote to rename the roads also directed county staff members to develop a grant program to offset those costs for businesses.

In 1968, at the height of the civil rights movement, the Virginia State Highway Commission renamed Rt. 7 between Alexandria and Winchester to honor Byrd, who led “massive resistance” to close Virginia’s public schools rather than integrate them.

Today in Fairfax it already has that name again. Currently, the road named Harry Byrd Highway from the Shenandoah River to Loudoun’s eastern border. That also means that if only the Loudoun section is renamed, there will remain a section of road just under three miles long still named for Byrd in Clarke County. Ultimately that decision, too, will fall to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

It was only in 1980 that the General Assembly named Rt. 50 for Mosby, reenacting that decision in 1982. That highway follows the path of a trail first made by Native Americans and expanded upon by colonists over the centuries; it was first named Little River Turnpike in 1806.

The work sprung out of an initiative approved in December 2020. A few months before, the statue of a Confederate soldier that stood before the county courthouse had been taken down. Supervisors on Dec. 15, 2020, voted to find and list Confederate and segregationist symbols in Loudoun, at the same time starting the process of naming the two highways. At the time, Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) voted against doing that work. Buffington was absent for the vote Tuesday; Kershner voted in favor of the changes.

That vote last December launched a process that formed an advisory committee, gathered public suggestions and feedback, put county staff members to work doing historic research, and led to debates about how the roads should be renamed resulting in the recommendation to simply restore their previous names.

At least one more likely renaming remains—Kephart Bridge Landing, a canoe and kayak launch in Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park, is named for George Kephart, who owned both Coton and Belmont plantations for a period of time and who became wealthy working in the slave trade. The Parks, Recreation and Open Space Board has recommended renaming it to Riverpoint Drive Trailhead, which supervisors were scheduled to discuss on Tuesday but deferred to Jan. 18.

11 thoughts on “Loudoun’s New Rt. 7, Rt. 50 Names Chosen

  • 2021-12-07 at 9:05 pm
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    This was the right thing to do. And I’m glad it was a unanimous decision (with Supervisor Buffington absent). The road’s names never should have been changed to honor Harry Byrd & John Mosby. What were folks thinking? Loudoun is the Land of Love. I’ve always felt its “L” configuration on the map stands for Love. There’s no room for hate in the county. Happy Holidays Loudoun!

  • 2021-12-08 at 7:29 am
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    Renaming roads may be a thing but it should not be the biggest thing $3 billion property tax dollars accomplishes along with statue removal and changing out World War plaques. Please publish your list of priorities you expect to accomplish over the rest of the BOS term and work to meet or exceed those targets. I hope following through on years of Route 15 north of Leesburg commitments will actually get done, property assessment errors/zoning abuses will get fixed and the appropriate stewarding of tax dollars given to LCPS/School Board will be honestly scrutinized. There is still time to show some management skill – please use it. 🙂

  • 2021-12-08 at 9:35 am
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    So Democrat racist Harry Byrd is “bad” but Democrat racist, slave-owning Lee family is “good?”

    Our supervisors have spent a year making this change? What criteria did they use for this insanely stupid idea? When will they will slap themselves on the backs and claim “social justice” has been achieved? Are there any adults left in county government?

    • 2021-12-08 at 10:54 am
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      So, don’t do anything if you can’t do everything? Would you actually like to see Leesburg’s name changed?

      • 2021-12-09 at 10:14 am
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        Thank you. I think your response demonstrates all this is nothing more than ill-conceived virtue signaling and kabuki theater! You are perfectly fine with streets and places named after racist slave-holders. You and your comrades simply want a cudgel to wield at convenient times.

        Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington and Leesburg were all named after families that owned slaves. But you selectively designate certain such historical facts as “offensive.” Then on your first go at flogging a dead horse, you rename a road from one racist to another slaveholder!

        The emperor has no clothes and it’s time you admit it and go fetch something to cover your exposed folly.

  • 2021-12-08 at 12:12 pm
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    $621,000 to replace road signs and a grant program to reimburse business owners affected.
    Congratulations Board of Supervisors for wasting more taxpayer money that helps no one except those that chronically suffer from self imposed oppression.
    Go woke , go broke.

  • 2021-12-08 at 12:25 pm
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    What’s old is new again…

    These are not serious people.

  • 2021-12-08 at 1:40 pm
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    To think that for the past 23 years I’ve been calling them Rte 7 and Rte 50. I also have no idea what the names of Rte 9, 15, 28 and 29 are and I use them regularly. I recall a certain poster praising the BOS for wise spending to control taxes. I forgot who that was.

    • 2021-12-08 at 5:39 pm
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      Exactly. I will still call them Rt. 7 and Rt. 50.

  • 2021-12-08 at 8:21 pm
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    Rt. 236 in Annandale is already called Little River Turnpike. I’m sure this will cause sufficient confusion for people not from here.
    This will likely be the biggest “accomplishment” by this BOS, so enjoy it everyone.

    More lunacy from today’s woke crowd.

  • 2021-12-18 at 10:19 am
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    So who “owns” RT 50 and RT 7, the county or the state? VDOT maintains these roads. Maybe the state won’t think it’s worth the effort to change the names.

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