Controversy surrounds naming of Raleigh building

April 26, 2012 8:13:48 PM PDT
A Wake County commissioner would like officials to name Raleigh's new justice center after the late Republican senator Jesse Helms.

The 500,000 square foot center isn't slated to open until 2013, but controversy is already brewing over its name. At least one other member of the Republican-led board has expressed for naming the building after Helms, but not everyone is in agreement.

"While some people may consider him to be controversial. I consider him to be a great leader in North Carolina," Republican Wake County commissioner Tony Gurley said.

Helms died in 2008 and was a conservative known for his opposition to Civil Rights, big government, and abortion.

Helms' nephew, Paul Coble, is the chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, and supports the naming.

"Any opportunity to honor a man who served in the Senate for thirty years and had the kind of influence, not only in the state, but in the nation and world, would be a great opportunity to honor him," Coble said.

"There are some folks who feel that Senator Helms has done that and deserves this kind of recognition. And I'm sure there are some folks who feel the other way," Democratic Wake County commissioner Ervin Portman said.

Raleigh resident Marshall Harvey is one of those people.

"They borderline on being a racist. I think that the African-American population would feel that way. That there are other folks that would be more appropriate to be named after," Harvey said.

It is unclear when the debate will likely heat up because so far, no solution has been presented to the board to name the building after Helms.

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