Activist sends scathing email over justice center name

May 3, 2012 4:05:45 AM PDT
The controversy over naming the Wake County Justice Center after Sen. Jesse Helms continues.

Now, a long-time civil rights activist spoke out to the Wake County Board of Commissioners. It came after two commissioners announced they support naming the center in downtown Raleigh after the late Jesse Helms.

In a scathing email, the head of the Raleigh-Wake Martin Luther King Committee urged board Chairman Paul Coble to back down from supporting naming the center after Helms.

Click here to read the email.

The email, obtained by ABC11, was addressed to Coble, and was sent to the rest of the Wake county Board of Commissioners.

In it, Bruce Lightner, the chairman of the Raleigh-Wake Martin Luther King Committee, laid into Coble.

"If it is your wish to tear this town and county apart, you could not have picked a more divisive and dreadful idea," wrote Lightner.

Lightner called the move an "aberration and cruel."

Wednesday, Coble fired back.

"Well, I'd have to say that Bruce and some others would like to generate some controversy. That's probably misplaced," said Coble.

Helms was a Senate fixture for decades, fighting big government and civil rights. Coble is Helms' nephew. He's been capitalizing on his famous uncle's legacy during his run for Congress. He even has a video endorsement from Helms' widow, Dorothy.

In a YouTube clip for Coble, Dorothy said, "If they want Jesse Helms, or somebody like him in Congress, they'll vote for my nephew, Paul Coble, who is just like Jesse."

So far, no resolution has been submitted for the name change. However, it's supported by at least one other commissioner, Tony Gurley. Gurley is running as a Republican for lieutenant governor.  

Coble stands behind the idea.

"If that resolution is put on the table, I would absolutely vote for it," said Coble.

Lightner told ABC11 that he still hasn't heard back from Coble. Meanwhile, the Wake County Board of Commissioners plans to tour the new justice center on Monday.

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