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Milwaukee Common Council renames street after Vel Phillips

The street runs through Phillips' district
Posted: 7:18 PM, May 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-09 12:02:32-04

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to make Vel Phillips' legacy permanent by renaming a downtown street after her. Phillips died last month at age 95.

Dozens of street signs that read "N. 4th Street" will soon be upgraded to "Vel R. Phillips Ave."

"I think that's wonderful," said Johnnie Walker of Milwaukee.

Walker grew up idolizing Phillips for serving as a trailblazer in the community.

"She pushed, and that was her legacy for us," Walker said. "She was inspirational to us all."

Phillips was a pioneer of many achievements. She was the first African-American to graduate from UW-Madison Law School, the first female judge in Milwaukee and the first African-American on Milwaukee's Common Council to name a few.

Phillips lived on 4th Street, but Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said that's not the only reason it was selected.

"It runs right through the heart of the district she represented when she was alderwoman," he said, "It also runs parallel with Martin Luther King Dr."

Vel R. Phillips Avenue will span five miles from downtown Milwaukee all the way up to a north side neighborhood on West Capitol.

"She said I never did anything halfway, so I don't want a street named after me that only goes halfway," Hamilton said.

It means a change of address is in store for Turner Hall, a Milwaukee landmark since the 19th century.

"It's actually exciting for us because this building is the oldest civic organization in the city," said Executive Director Katharina Hren.

Hren said the new street name is a fitting replacement for what Turner Hall's founders stood for.

"Getting involved in the community, debating important issues," she said.

The common council says they expect the new street signs to be up by sometime this summer.