There has been some chatter recently about changing the names of things named after people nobody has heard of, such as Arthur Godfrey Road in Miami Beach. Now, for those who have never heard of him, Arthur Godfrey was once a dominant radio and television personality who was strongly identified with South Florida, especially Miami Beach. Some credit him with creating the buzz that brought Jackie Gleason and a lot of collateral publicity to South Florida.
We credit Godfrey with giving Miami Magazinesome plugs back in the early 1970s when we owned it. It seems he liked girls, and one of the girls he liked happened to be selling advertising for us. Godfrey mentioned our magazine and his foxy friend on the air. Alas, it did not do us much good, as we were forced to sell the struggling magazine to a fellow who eventually made some money on it. Arthur Godfrey died in 1983. To preserve his memory, they named a prominent artery after him. It preserved his memory so well, that today nobody remembers him. At least one public official said he isn’t “relevant” these days. That means nobody makes any money on him today.
There’s a little more to this story. Godfrey ran his operation from a restricted hotel, and even when they named something after him, some people thought it questionable, suspecting him of anti-Semitism. Hence, an effort to undo what should not have been done in the first place.
In principle, we object to changing names of places, such as the former Joe Robbie Stadium, which has been changed so often that people say they’re going to a game at “whatever they call it today.” There is, however, considerable precedent for changing names. The Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic is now the Honda; people once called Miami Lemon City, presumably named after a lemon; Delray Beach was originally Linton, named after an early settler; Stuart was at one time Potsdam, named after the German town where some settlers were born; Dania used to be Modello. Whatever happened to New Amsterdam or New Sweden? Those places were renamed after whoever won the latest battle. Just up river from Fort Christina, Pennsylvania Military College became Widener University. Well, that beats the original 1821 name of the Bullock School For Boys. After all, it’s co-ed today. Not far away, there is now Arcadia University, which for years went by the name Beaver College.
Still, it seems a shame, except to sign painters, to change a name just because the name doesn’t mean much these days. Carried to extreme, a lot of revered institutions could go by something else. Washington and Lee University might consider a change because Cliff Lee may be out for the season.
Well, you can’t fight change. But, at least we can forget the idea of renaming American Airlines Arena to The House That LeBron Built.