May 02, 2005
Willie Nelson Highway officially dead

Lost in the shuffle last week was the official death (for this session, anyway) of any plans to name a highway for Willie Nelson.

Facing opposition in his bid to name a Travis County chunk of Texas 130 for legendary crooner Willie Nelson, Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos today dropped the proposal from further consideration.

Bottom line: Sens. Florence Shapiro and Jeff Wentworth pulled Senate Bill 802 from the Senate’s Local and Uncontested Calendar, and Barrientos decided against facing a fight to get it passed on the Senate’s regular calendar.

Earlier, Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Sen. Steve Ogden, R-College Station, had opposed the bill and forced Barrientos to remove all but the portion of the highway in Barrientos’ district from bearing Nelson’s name.

Ogden’s district includes the northernmost 17 miles of the new highway, and Wentworth’s covers the southernmost 1.5 miles.

Their problem: Nelson’s dope-smoking past, history with tax troubles and liberal politics.

“I never expected naming the road after Willie Nelson, a man with so many accomplishments and such broad-based appeal, a man who has been responsibe for so much good music and so many good works, to be at all controversial,” Barrientos said.

At one point, Barrientos had 23 of the 31 senators listed as co-authors.

“It’s frustrating and sad, in a way, but at this point there is no reason to make this an unpleasant experience for anyone, especially Willie, so I’ll take no further action on the bill.”

The highway, part of the Central Texas Turnpike Project, is slated to open in late 2007.

For his part, Wentworth said it was Barrientos’ decision to drop the bill. But he said he offered to drop his opposition if Barrientos changed it to honor someone who had something to do with the road — like former congressman Jake Pickle, a Democrat.

“This is not a R or D issue, never has been,” Wentworth said. “Naming highways for someone who didn’t have anything to do with them is not right.”

I'll be sure to keep that in mind when a section of US290 is named after that well-known Texan Ronald Reagan. BOR's Andrea also noted this story.

Look, as I said before, I don't care about what roads are named after whom. But if we're going to give names to perfectly-functional numbered roads, then like Sen. Barrientos, I just don't see what the problem is with Willie Nelson. Who in their right minds thinks of him as anything but a great musician and iconic Texan? What else would come to mind as you drove down the Willie Nelson Highway? Willie, you deserved better than this. Maybe next time.

UPDATE: In case you want to know what highways are officially named for whom in Texas, here you go. If anyone wants to explain to me what Nolan Ryan and Tom Landry had to do with the thoroughfares that bear their names, by all means please do. Thanks to John for the tip.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 02, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

"If anyone wants to explain to me what Nolan Ryan and Tom Landry had to do with the thoroughfares that bear their names, by all means please do."

My understanding is that the Nolan Ryan Expressway runs to his hometown of Alvin, hence the name.

Posted by: William Hughes on May 2, 2005 10:50 AM

I hate it when highways and buildings are named after people who are still alive.

If they're still famous and revered after they've been dead a while, okay. Fine. But wait until they're done.

After all, Nolan Ryan could go nuts on a killing spree. Or, even worse, coach the Red Sox.

Who knows?

Posted by: Laurence Simon on May 2, 2005 12:00 PM

Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to have named a rest stop after Willie?

Posted by: Vernon Guy on May 2, 2005 2:25 PM

Other than being the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and the designation starting in downtown Dallas, there's no connection. It may have made more sense to extend it to Fair Park, where the Cowboys played in the Cotton Bowl for the first few years, but, alas, they did not.

I think that this took place shortly after Landry's diagnosis with cancer, so lets not pick too hard on some sentimental legislator.

Posted by: David R. Block on May 2, 2005 3:07 PM

Just so we're clear here, I absolutely have no problem with the Nolan Ryan Expressway or the Tom Landry Highway. Those gentlemen were and are fine Texans and worthy of the honor. All I'm saying is that if they're worthy of it, then so is Willie Nelson. If there's a distinction that Jeff Wentworth and Steve Ogden are drawing between them (other than "Willie's a Democrat and I can't abide that"), I'm not seeing it.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 2, 2005 3:25 PM

Real Texas Music lovers should be lobbying for Waylon Jennings before Willie Nelson, anyway.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 3, 2005 7:42 AM

Just want anyone to know Willie is one of the nicest people I have ever meant. I met Willie at Pine Meadows golf course in Eau Claire,WI. That evening he was headlining Country Jam USA at Eau Claire,WI. I was standing at the end of the 9th hole when Willie spotted me.His bus was in the parking lot, so I got pictures of it first. I WAS THEN IN HOPE OF A PICTURE OF THE MAN,PLUS SIGNINGMY GREEN BAY PACKER HAT. Willie told me he would be honered to do both for me. The hat is put away as a keepsake,and the picture of us hangs on the wall in my house. I have been around other entertainers prior to Willie,nobody comes close to him as such a nice man Jesus blessed us with. He was so polite to me and made me feel like I was somebody to. From a friend back in Eau Claire, thanks for being the way you are Willie, Sincerely Bob Mc Roberts

Posted by: Bob Mc Roberts on February 27, 2006 5:46 PM

This will be seen as another blunder of the Bush administration by Grass-Root America. Willie Nelson is a peoples champion. Sorry but you are wrong this is a Republican issue. This only proves how far they are out of touch with with the people who put them there in the first place. We say don't give up on this fight we The American People are alive but have not heard about this cowardly act due to some poor publicty. Get the public whom Mr. Nelson has helped involved and we will change the name of the white house to The Willie Nelson House. You know what to do let's get it done!

Posted by: Carlton on March 16, 2006 11:03 AM