Highway named for pioneering state legislator Aris Allen He kept road from uprooting residents

November 01, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- A decade ago, Aris T. Allen won his battle in the state legislature to keep a proposed road extension from plowing through and uprooting a black community off Forest Drive.

Yesterday, state officials honored the pioneer who paved the way for improved race relations in the state by naming the 1.2-mile stretch of highway -- completed in April -- Aris T. Allen Boulevard.

"Some people may wonder, why a road?" said Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall. "He took people from where they were to where they wanted to go. I don't think I'll be able to drive down this boulevard without thinking of Mr. Allen."

Dr. Allen's widow, Faye, told the more than 150 people who ventured out in the rain to the middle of Md. Route 665 that she could find no words to describe her appreciation.

"I do hope you realize how deeply we have been moved," she zTC said. "I feel that this is fitting and symbolic. . . . Aris was forever on the move, rushing from place to place to help people along the way."

During the ceremony, politicians and relatives recalled the work of Dr. Allen, a statesman and physician who broke racial barriers in Anne Arundel County and Maryland.

Dr. Allen, 80, who excelled in medicine and politics, took his own life in February 1991 after discovering he had terminal prostate cancer -- just four weeks into the legislative session. He had won back his House of Delegates seat in 1990, about a decade after leaving the legislature.

His long list of accomplishments include being the General Assembly's only black Republican, Anne Arundel's first black school board member and former President Ronald Reagan's appointee as medical affairs adviser to the Health Care Financing Administration.

"Whether you look at him as an educator or as a physician or as a public servant, the one thing that he brought to all of us was compassion," said Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden. "The bottom line is service. That is his legacy -- it goes beyond race, it goes beyond party."

The new road, which cost $15.2 million, was built to relieve traffic congestion on Forest Drive. The four-lane divided highway links Solomons Island Road to Bywater Road and completes Md. 665 from Forest Drive to U.S. 50.

The road was conceived more than 10 years ago, but original plans called for the extension to slice through a black community, which already had been forced out of downtown Annapolis.

"[Dr. Allen] just didn't want to uproot people again from their homes," said Annapolis Alderman Sam Gilmer, who met Dr. Allen in the 1940s when he saw him as a patient. "This highway was his dream."

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