Open letter to the Ellis County Commission

Staff Writer
Hays Daily News

John T. Bird, a name partner in the Hays law firm of Glassman Bird Powell LLP, shared this letter with The Hays Daily News. Bird on Wednesday delivered this letter to the Ellis County Commissioners: Butch Schlyer, 1st district; Dustin Roths, 2nd district; and Dean Haselhorst, 3rd district.

Dear Commissioner Schlyer, Roths and Haselhorst:

Recent events have reminded us that we subconsciously tolerate racism in many forms. Many years ago, when Ellis County was called upon to assign names to all the roads and streets in the County, one of your predecessors thought it would be clever to name the road that begins at the 12th Street bridge and runs west to Yocemento, formerly known as old Highway 40, Noose Road. The name selected was racist then and it is racist now. It is a direct reference to one of the worst event to ever take place in our county.

I would refer you to the doctoral thesis of James N. Leiker for details. It is enclosed. THe railroad bridge near the beginning of the road was the site of the lynching of three black soldiers from Fort Hays, by a vigilante mob. The County Commissioner, despite my protest, rammed the name change through, laughing about it.

My family has owned and lived on land on this road for more than 100 years, and I have regretted that I did not protest more loudly when the naming of it took place.

It's no laughing matter, and the purpose for this letter is to insist that you do the right thing and change the name of that road, immediately.

My grandparents, John S. and Martha L. Bird, also owned and operated the newspaper in Hays that became the daily newspaper, the Hays Daily News. It would not be inappropriate to rename the road “News Road,” which would have the benefit of avoiding confusion by the post office and other entities that deliver to the approximately 25 residences currently on that road.

It's not debatable as to whether it should be changed. I do ask that you afford me time on your agenda at the first opportunity, to express in more detail the need for this change, if you disagree. Hopefully, you will do the right thing.


John T. Bird