ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says he is supportive of renaming the Greater Rochester International Airport after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Bello said:
“Frederick Douglass holds an unparalleled place of prominence in the history of Rochester and Monroe County. He called Rochester home for more than a quarter-century and it was here that he founded and published his North Star newspaper, wrote some of his greatest works and speeches and continued his life-long fight for emancipation, suffrage, equality and human rights. His world-renowned leadership on social reform is a legacy that lives on throughout our community.
I appreciate the input and civic engagement of so many residents who have suggested renaming the Greater Rochester international Airport in Mr. Douglass’ honor. I am supportive of this idea and my administration will be working with the County Legislature, the Federal Aviation Administration, the public and other stakeholders in coming weeks to develop a process to study this proposal.”
Bello’s support comes after a petition was started for this movement over the weekend.
The potential renaming of the airport has apparent bipartisan support so far locally, as the Monroe County Republican Committee endorsed the proposal on Twitter Tuesday:
Local activist Richard Glaser created the online petition this past weekend directed toward County Executive Bello to officially change the name of the Greater Rochester International Airport to “Frederick Douglass International Airport.”
The original plan was to aim for 200 signatures at first, and long term would work up to 2,000 signatures. As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday the petition was closing in 2,500 signatures.
“Symbols are very important,” Glaser said. “Racial equity is the ball and chain we carry around our ankle.”
By uplifting the name of Douglass to the public, Glaser says the celebrated abolitionist could serve as a role model for the people who live in Rochester, and around the world.
“Frederick Douglass is arguably among the greatest historical figures for all the reasons that someone might win a Nobel Prize,” he said. “He really enshrines the values that were put out there by the Founding Fathers. We don’t recognize publicly that Douglass lived much of his adult life here.
“We were blessed with Douglass’s presence in our community,” he said. “People around the world know him, every school kid learns about Frederick Douglass. It’s time to get that symbolic recognition.”
“We would be very supportive of a name change,” said Ken Morris Jr., the great, great, great grandson of Frederick Douglass.
Morris says he and Glaser spoke at length last week before the petition was posted.
“Douglass spent 25 years in Rochester, it was his adopted home, and its where he decided he would be buried. I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to recognize him,” Morris said.
Morris lives in California now, but before the pandemic, would take frequent trips to Rochester. He recalls that the terminals in the airport are named for Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, but now after the redesign, the large names were replaced by small bronze plaques. Morris would love for his ancestor’s name to be more prominent.
“That would be very cool to fly into the ‘Frederick Douglass International Airport,’” he said.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.