In a piece of legislative legerdemain worthy of Houdini the Smithfield Town Council seems to have resolved the controversy surrounding the street named for a notorious Rhode Island Ku Klux Klan leader by changing the name of Domin Avenue to Domin Avenue.
That’s not a typo.
Former Smithfield resident and amateur historian Roger Schenk suggested changing the name after discovering late last summer that the street was named for John Algernon Domin, an Exalted Cyclops of the Roger Williams Klavern in the 1920s. Domin was no rank and file member of the Klan, he was a leader, who in 1928 was called before the General Assembly to testify about his involvement in a Klan lead military coup. Domin was a terrorist and an insurrectionist.
Surprisingly, the majority of Domin Avenue residents resisted changing the name of the street, citing the onerous and costly process of an address change. Some felt that the Klan history was long over and best forgotten, but a small minority of residents objected to the street name on the grounds that it celebrated, however unintentionally, a man who dedicated at least part of his life to race hatred and terrorism.
According to the Valley Breeze, Smithfield Town manager Dennis Finlay agonized “for months” over the issue, searching for a compromise that would satisfy all the residents. In the meantime, there was an election, and the Smithfield Town Council changed leadership and substituted many members, inheriting the issue from their predecessors.
Finlay’s big idea is that Domin Ave will be from no on named for all members of the Domin family, (except for, I presume, John Algernon Domin) pointing out that lots of streets are named for prominent families, not just individuals. According to the Valley Breeze:
The council’s resolution says the name has been “changed” with “the understanding that it now refers to all families named Domin.”
The resolution passed unanimously. Though it seems unsatisfying, perhaps this is, after all, the only politically viable solution.