Four years later, city still refuses honor for Ausberry, Hughey

The families of two men who spent their lives working to improve conditions for African-Americans are still waiting for a memorial tribute approved by the Monroe City Council four years ago.

In November, the Monroe City Council approved a resolution “renaming and dedicating” the Powell Street Community Center in the City of Monroe as the “Benny J. Ausberry/James “Coach” Hughey Community Center.”

Despite the council’s vote, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo refuses to rename the center to honor the two men.

Powell Street Community Center

The Mayo administration has given no reason for refusing to make the change.

The Resolution effectively changed the official name of the center on all official documents, but the Mayo Administration has ignored the council resolution and “Powell Street Community Center” still appears on all official documents and on the building itself, even nearly four years later.

The resolution approved by the council read:

“Whereas, Mr. Benny J. Ausberry was a former councilman, an educator and was known for his exceptional achievements and contributions he has done in making things happen throughout the City of Monroe, especially in District 3, and

“Whereas, Mr. James “Coach” Hughey who impacted the lives of many young men and women in various departments, especially in the Athletic Department and through his activities in the community he loved, and

“Whereas, Mr. Ausberry and Mr. Hughey both gave unselfishly of their time to those less fortunate and they dedicated their lives to making life better for themselves, their families and their communities, and
“Whereas their conduct and sense of fairness they demonstrated during their time earned them the respect and admiration of their peers, and though deeply missed by their families and friends, they are still remembered in our hearts and not forgotten.”

Ausberry was a community activist who spent decades promoting changes to help the Black community, specifically the Booker T. Community. He was among the leaders of the Booker T. Community who pushed for the closing of open ditches on Powell Avenue, The 165 Crosswalk, and the Building of the Powell Street Center.

Ausberry was a plaintiff in a civil suit that was filed to force the city to change its form of government from the commission council to its present single-member district. He was one of two blacks elected to the new council once it was reconstituted under the 1979 Home Rule Charter.

“Coach” James Hughey was an educator who spent his life working to eliminate gang violence. The Powell Street Center and other recreation centers were his bases of operation. Thanks to Hughey’s efforts thousands of boys were diverted from gang membership and the city developed a full recreation program in the centers to deter gang violence in the future.