Senator eyes naming 34th Street in Gainesville for Tom Petty after MLK Highway backlash

Tom Petty honored on the 34th Street Wall in Gainesville. (WGFL)

A stretch of Southwest 34th Street could be someday named Tom Petty Memorial Highway, but the journey to honor the legendary rocker and Gainesville native has already hit a couple of speed bumps.

State Sen. Keith Perry filed a bill Monday to rename a portion of SW 13th Street after Petty. The only problem is the road was designated Martin Luther King, Jr. Highway back in 1998.

The backlash was immediate.

"You talked to people and find out they've worked 30-plus years to make that happen, so I found out more history of what it took to get that destination to start with," Perry told CBS 4 Gainesville. "And there was a lot if effort by these people that I wasn't aware of."

Cynthia Chestnut served on the commission when Martin Luther King, Jr. Highway got its name. She says she was disappointed it was even a suggestion.

"It was not a right decision any way you look at it," Chestnut said. "To take away one man's honor to give it to someone else, no, that's not right."

Perry says he didn't anticipate the backlash because his proposal was only for half a mile.

"I certainly didn't want to cause angst," he said. "It was a tribute to Tom Petty. We don't want any conflict that wouldn't make any sense. So we are kind of just reaching out to people and getting some input."

Chestnut says there are many other avenues to honor Tom Petty, such as Northwood Park, where Petty spent his early years.

"In the future I hope he will touch bases with more people in the community to make a major decision like that," she said.

Perry says he's now looking at naming SW 34th Street Tom Petty Memorial Highway but says he's taking all suggestions.

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