‘MAN OF QUIET STRENGTH’: City renames street in honor of WWII vet

Roosevelt Taylor Sr., a 93-year-old World War II veteran, was honored with a ceremony on Thursday as Beattie Street, where he has lived for more than 70 years, was renamed in his honor (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

Ryan Phillips

Few people get to see a street named after them in their lifetime.

But for one local World War II veteran, that became a reality last month when the Board of Aldermen approved a motion for Beattie Street in the heart of the city of Starkville to be officially renamed Roosevelt Taylor Sr. Drive in honor of the 93-year-old U.S. Army veteran and former entrepreneur.

A couple dozen people attended a small event held on the street Thursday to mark the occasion, which featured a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and a list of city officials, friends and family members who spoke about Taylor’s impact on the community.

Taylor has lived on Beattie Street for more than 70 years, raised a family there and saw both the physical and social landscape of the city around him change during that time. A pillar of the community, Taylor came back to Starkville just a few months shy of spending two years in Europe. He was injured in France, and would come back to Mississippi and manage a taxi service and shoe shining business in downtown Starkville for decades.

Taylor’s next to youngest child, Rev. Ronnie Taylor, is the pastor at Arise Christian Center Church in Los Angeles and gave a speech at the event to honor the man who raised him.

At one point during the speech, the younger Taylor turned around and addressed his father directly as he sat in his wheelchair looking on.

“Daddy thank you. Thank you for the father that you’ve been. Thank you for the model that you’ve been. Thank you for the man you have been,” Ronnie Taylor said. “Legacies are not established except for how we live and I want to say you have lived a life that has been so exemplary to us, we want to say today it is appropriate that this street name be changed to Roosevelt Taylor Sr. Drive.”

After the speech, Ronnie Taylor told the Starkville Daily News that his entire family was overjoyed and overwhelmed after receiving so much support from the community.

“I do truly believe it is so appropriate to rename the street Roosevelt Taylor Drive,” Ronnie Taylor said following the ceremony. “ All of the siblings were reared here. Like I said earlier, we know this street better than anyone in the community because our father did not allow us to go beyond this street.”

This is not the first honor Taylor has seen in recent months. In February, the Starkville Daily News reported when he was made an honorary Tuskegee Airman by Erma Bonner Platte, the wife of the late Captain Claude Platte, giving him an honorary membership in the Claude R. Platte DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. on behalf of her late husband.

That honor would get the attention of the West Main Community Association, who in tandem with city officials such as Ward 7 Alderman Henry N. Vaughn and City Engineer Edward Kemp, worked to make the renaming of Beattie Street possible. The Starkville Board of Aldermen approved the decision in June, and the hope is to have a new sign put up by the end of the year.

West Main President Emil Lovely got choked up with emotion to begin the ceremony on Thursday, but was instrumental in working with the city to see that Taylor was honored during his lifetime.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of history and history’s been made today with the city of Starkville to help us facilitate this and get it done,” Lovely said. “We started on this in February and in June, we officially renamed the street, but it will be in effect in September.”

Vaughn, who has known Taylor his entire life and currently represents his ward on the Board of Aldermen, said it was an honor to be able to put the spotlight on a World War II veteran and cherished member of the community while he is alive.

“He’s been a community man for many years,” Vaughn said. “I know he drove for Community Cab for like 40 years and he’s been on this same street all my life. But it’s just a great day for Starkville and a great day for this community to change the name of the street. It’s always a blessing to give a man his flower while he’s still living.”

Mayor Lynn Spruill, a U.S. Navy veteran and former pilot, said veterans of World War II and other conflicts simply don’t get the recognition they deserve for their service. However, she said it is special when the community can rally together to make it possible.

“You can imagine as a vet myself it’s pretty important, so we really have to appreciate what he did and the difficulties they endured and everything they did,” she said. “I’ll quote Tom Brokaw on that, they are our ‘greatest generation.’”

Ronnie Taylor reflected on memories of his father, who is a man of few words but one who is respected because of the place he holds in the community. Those memories include nicknames, life lessons and above all else, love and compassion.

“His nickname was ‘Monkey’ Taylor, and a lot of people know him as ‘Monkey’ Taylor,” Ronnie Taylor said with a laugh. “In his childhood I was told that he used to just love to climb trees, so the nickname just stuck with him and people knew him as that, but he is known throughout the city as a man of quiet strength.”

Diane Singleton, Roosevelt Taylor Sr.’s daughter, said the ceremony was well attended and she thanked the mayor, city officials, local clergy, American Legion Post 240, the West Main Community Association and numerous friends and resident of the community who made the day special.

“All the remarks were consistent with the outstanding character, diligence, servanthood, and neighborly love that Roosevelt Taylor Sr. has demonstrated as a pillar of the community for nearly seventy years,” she said. “All in attendance agreed that the street name change was fitting and appropriate.”

“He didn’t say a whole lot but when he spoke, he spoke things that really made a difference,” Ronnie Taylor continued. “I know him as one that always cared about people and how they lived and he would often say to his children, they’re others in the neighborhood that may not have the same morals that we have and he would clearly tell us, just be wise on your associations but he loved everyone and loved everyone and wanted everyone to live a live that was pleasing to the community as well as God the father.”