Harry McNair speaks up about street name change - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Harry McNair speaks up about street name change

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Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 10:15 am

Starting with “I don’t want this to be about me, it is about my father and grandfather,” Harry McNair has decided to speak up on the whole Fronton Street and McNair Family Drive issue last week at his office located on the same street.

The Brownsville City Commission is set to vote at this evening’s City Commission Meeting to change McNair Family Drive back to East Fronton Street. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in downtown City Hall.

Surrounded by photos of his family and hundreds of books that ranged from Donald Trump to Mexican Food, McNair, a former Brownsville city commissioner, sat in his historical office behind a desk that was covered with a map of the United States. On the left side, a Texas and United States flags were proudly displayed.

“Fronton means nothing … You’re Hispanic, what does Fronton mean to you?” McNair asked.

Continuing on how there is no official information on why the street was really named “Fronton” and what it actually means, McNair said what has made the street historic are the businesses that have been located in that same street for almost 100 years.

“People told me (Fronton) is a game in Spain, other people said it is short for Frontera and one of the latest ones I’ve heard it’s in English ‘Front-on’ it fronts on something. So, it has no meaning, it has no ties to anything historic. Fronton Street is not historic, what is historic are the companies, the businesses and what occurred on the street. We can relate to that because my forefathers came here and started a business in 1920,” McNair said.

“So, all these newbies, the newcomers, they’re going by ‘I’ve lived here 10 years, 20 years, 15 years and I get all that, change is hard for people to accept.”

The McNair Clothing Manufacturing Company was formed in 1920 by Philip Kitching McNair in “just” one 50’x90’ lot; the company now owns 34 lots on that street, McNair said.

McNair said the process to change the name of the street from Fronton to McNair Family Drive started unbeknownst to him by a family friend and didn’t know about the situation until he received a letter from the city in his mail on the proposed street name change.

“All of a sudden, we are getting attention because a name change and I start with this: who wouldn’t be proud that one individual took it upon himself to say ‘you know what? I think your family deserves to be recognized.’ Who wouldn’t want that? Of course you would want that, anybody. Do my father and grandfather deserve it? Absolutely, without a doubt in my mind they deserve it.” McNair said.

Enrique Melguizo, the person who initiated the street renaming, said he thought it was a nice thing to do for a family that has been in the same street for almost 100 years. He added that the buildings owned by McNair are well-kept while the other ones have not been maintained.

McNair Family Drive was officially adopted on May 21, 2019 by the City Commission and an attempt by residents of the street to persuade elected officials to reverse the change was unsuccessfully made in an Aug. 6 meeting.

Residents looking to rename the street are now using a new policy that was implemented for street renaming procedures back in July. Under the new policy, an application for street renaming has to be signed by no less than 75 percent of all owners abutting the subject city street or a duly authorized officer or attorney representing a governmental subdivision, agency or department.

McNair said under the new policy one lot equals one vote, giving him a total of 34 votes for all the lots he owns. He added those looking to rename the street back to Fronton are “interpreting the legislative intent of the street policy to fit their numbers” by counting one owner, one vote.

The commission voted on Oct. 15 to table an item that would decide if the McNair Family Drive will be renamed back to East Fronton Street.

“We’ve employed generations of people, there’s probably not a month that goes by that I don’t run into somebody at a grocery store, the bank, the post office, the pharmacies, that they hear my name and say ‘oh, you’re McNair? My mother used to work for your father, my father worked for your grandfather’ and you know? I’ve never heard, not one person ever speak ill about my father of my grandfather,” McNair said.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com

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