The Fascinating Story Behind How Austin’s 19th Street Became Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Perhaps you drive down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Austin on a regular basis. But do you know how it came to be one of Texas’ 19 “MLK” streets?
Years ago, it was called 19th Street. In the 1970s, it was decided to change it to honor Dr. King. The Austin City Council thought it would be wonderful way to honor him and renamed a portion of East 19th Street, where it ran between I-35 and Ed Bluestein Boulevard. For the section that was west of the interstate though, it remained as 19th Street.
In the African-American community, they felt that the entire length of 19th Street should be renamed for Dr. King. In a meeting for the city council on May 1, 1975, the retired president of Huston-Tillotson University, Dr. J.J. Seabrook, made his case for renaming both the east and west sides for Dr. King. He was passionate about this cause and it would soon be the last good deed he’d do in his life, for he collapsed from a heart attack and died. The council proceeded to vote over the issue, winning 4-to-2 in favor for giving the entire length of 19th Street the new moniker.
Quite a number of business owners objected to this because they didn’t want to create new stationery or signage which would come as an added expense. They engaged in a huge battle with the city of Austin, forming “West 19th Street Association” to fight the change. They brought forth a lawsuit claiming that property owners should determine the names for the streets. The fight lasted for almost a full year, but City Hall ultimately won the lawsuit, gaining the right to change the names of streets in Austin. Thank you to all the leaders who fought for this name change. Your persistence is what makes community stronger.
From 1976 onward, all of 19th Street was officially named “Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.” Longhorn Meat Market, located at 2411 E. Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd., has been serving Austin with fresh meat a long before the name change on the street. We are proud to be on this street, MLK Jr. Blvd. For over 5 decades, we’ve been carving custom cuts for the meat-lovers of our fair city, and we plan to keep doing so for decades and decades to come.