‘Resolve this perceived slap in the face’ | Dallas residents upset by removal of freeway signs honoring civil rights icon


The reasoning for the sign removal, according to TxDOT, was because the City of Dallas made a mistake in 1995.

DALLAS — Residents in South Dallas expressed their discontent with city leaders on Wednesday that signs bearing the namesake of late civic leader Dr. S.M. Wright had been removed from State Highway 310.

“I am here on behalf of the People’s Missionary Baptist Church … to express our profound disappointment and confusion about the removal of S.M. Wright street signs from a section of Highway 310 that runs through our community — a community that Dr. S.M. Wright spent his pastorage serving and whose mediation and coalition-building skills have guided the city through the turbulent 60s and 70s of racial unrest,” Dallas resident Gwendolyn Snead said.

Snead urged Dallas City Council to “swiftly move” and “rectify and resolve this perceived slap in the face of our community” by restoring the removed S.M. Wright street signs. 


The reasoning for the sign removal, according to TxDOT, was because the City of Dallas made a mistake in 1995. The application to change the name from State Highway 310 to S.M. Wright Freeway was never finished. 

S.M. Wright pastored the People’s Missionary Baptist Church in South Dallas from 1957 until he died in 1994. His son, S.M. Wright II, became the church pastor in 1993. 

The highway was called Central Expressway until 1995, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush changed the name to S.M. Wright Freeway, according to the S.M. Wright Foundation.

“S.M. Wright Freeway 310 is the gateway into the Joppa community,” Dallas resident Claudia Fowler said. “S.M. Wright Freeway has been around … since 1994, 1995. We are going to be looking forward to another big sign unveiling. Again, history is so important to this city. I want my grandson to be able to ask me one day, ‘Queenie, who is S.M. Wright?’ And I will be able to tell him he was a leader in this community, the pastor of the People’s Missionary Baptist Church, and that he did some things here in this city.”

Dr. Tommy Brown, pastor of New Mount Zion Baptist Church, was at the street naming celebration in June 1995.

“I was privileged to sit there with then-Gov. Bush to watch the signage go up. As a freshman in high school, I learned a quote that says, ‘If history never fails to repeat itself, how uncapable man must be of learning his mistakes.’ We don’t want to see this history to repeat itself. A mistake was made not on your part, but on parts of those who served prior to you,” Rev. Brown said.

“We stand today as watchmen of this city, applauding you for the action you’re taking and we trust you’ll do what you say you’ll do, in righting this wrong,” Brown added.

The area is being reconstructed as part of a Texas Department of Transportation project to “transform” the S.M. Wright Freeway into a six-lane boulevard with traffic signals. 

District 6 Council Member Omar Narvaez told those who attended the meeting their concerns have not fallen on deaf ears and “actions already been in motion” on resolving the street sign removal.

“I can assure you that the process has already been put into motion and our city manager Kim Tolbert is committed to seeing this through … I also look forward to a big celebration and ’round two’ for the unveiling of the S.M. Wright freeway,” Narvaez said.

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