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Tempe City Council to vote to change streets, parks named after KKK members

Tempe Town Lake
Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 20:04:03-04

TEMPE, AZ — Several Tempe streets and parks could be getting new names if the city council votes to move forward with the process.

The parks and streets are currently named after former, deceased members of the KKK.

Historian Marshall Trimble tells ABC15 the men were also prominent business owners and community leaders, which is why they were honored with the namesakes.

Trimble said when the KKK was seeing a resurgence in the 1920’s, it was common for men of high status to join.

“It was kind of popular, I like to call it a fad because it didn’t last very long. Maybe they thought it was cool; it was a fraternal thing,” he said.

Hugh Laird was a pharmacist and two-time mayor.

Now there is a school and a street named after him.

Clyde Gilliland owned an auto shop and later worked for the Kyrene School District.

According to Trimble, the men were part of a movement of people concerned with the changes in immigration and religion.

“The immigration patterns had really changed from the white Scandinavian, English, and Irish and such. It became more lower European, Italian, Jews and so forth,” he said.

But the movement didn’t last long.

By 1925 it had all but disappeared. Marshall believes it was the result of common sense realizations.

“These people they were intellectuals, doctors and such and I think after they had time to reflect on it they thought, 'What am I doing here? I’ve met some Catholics and they aren’t bad people at all.'”

If the Tempe City Council decides to move forward with the name changes, they will create an ad-hoc committee which will then reach out to community groups for input.