County eyeing possible name change to 'Uncle Tom Rd.'

Neighbors say name holds historical significance
Posted at 6:51 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 18:51:49-04

A controversial street name in Hillsborough County may be on the chopping block. 

An anonymous letter sent to commissioner Les Miller prompted a review of Uncle Tom Rd. in Riverview. 

"When you hear Uncle Tom, you always think negative," said Carolyn Collins with Hillsborough County NAACP. 

It's easy to miss, the street is fewer than 900 feet long and tucked away along a busy portion of U.S. 301, south of Gibsonton Drive. 

"They need to leave the road alone," said Bob Purmort, who is the only resident on Uncle Tom Rd. 

Neighbors are proud of the name and say Uncle Tom Rd. holds important, historical value to the community. 

"It's actually named after Mr. Murphy, which his first name happened to be Tom," said Purmort. 

We found multiple streets bearing the Murphy family name along U.S. 301.  A tribute after the family donated land to Hillsborough county decades ago. 

"It's not a racist thing here," said Purmort.  "I've been going up and down that road for 30 years, never gave it a thought." 

Hillsborough County commissioners are researching if the longtime road should be renamed. 

"Uncle Tom" is widely considered a racial slur, used against African-Americans, originating from Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1851 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. 

"If your community, your people need something, that you're the one that will go behind their back and take it from them," said Collins.  "That is a negative connotation."

Collins supports a change in the name if, but only if the legacy of the road's name is not stripped away. 

"Let's call it 'Uncle Tom Murphy's Rd.'  Just add his last name," said Collins.  "Do not  make that family feel like they are losing." 

Hillsborough County commissioners are slated to discuss potentially changing the name at their meeting Wednesday.