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Vietnam War casualty's sister makes an emotional plea against renaming a highway interchange

Air Force Maj. Bobby Jones

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND

By STANLEY DUNLAP | The Macon Telegraph | Published: February 27, 2019

MACON, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — The sister of an Air Force flight surgeon who went missing during the Vietnam War urged Macon-Bibb County officials to not rename an interstate interchange named in honor of her brother.

Jo Anne Shirley spoke Tuesday about how the interchange doesn’t just represent her brother, Maj. Bobby Jones, but all other military veterans who faced a similar fate.

Shirley’s plea comes weeks after an initial County Commission proposal sought to name the Interstate 75/16 interchange after state Sen. David Lucas, who was instrumental in getting the $600 million construction project underway.

That proposal was nixed after it was discovered by some officials last month that the section of highway was already named after Jones.

Some commissioners said Tuesday there would be no way they would support any name changes being made at the intersection.

But there could be other ways to recognize the longtime elected official, including possibly adding Lucas’ name to that section, one leader said. The Georgia Department of Transportation also does not allow an interstate to be named after anyone currently serving in state office.

Shirley was joined by about 60 other people on Tuesday, including other military veterans, friends and relatives. She said she wants to make sure there aren’t any plans that would take away from what the interchange means to so many people.

“It’s a distraction from having people understand this is about accountability for our over 82,000 Americans that are missing and unaccounted for,” Shirley said following Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

Jones was a Lanier High School and University of Georgia graduate. He joined the Air Force after finishing medical college.

Jones went missing on Nov. 28, 1972. It’s unknown if the fighter jet crashed by clipping a cloudy, remote mountain or if it was shot down, Shirley said.

Twenty-seven years later, Jones’ service to his nation would be recognized in his hometown of Macon.

“In 1999 my family was so honored that I-16/I-75 interchange here in Macon would be dedicated to not only honor Bobby but to bring awareness to all of our missing American servicemen from World War II to present day,” Shirley said.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas, the wife of David Lucas, said removing Jones’ name is not being considered. There are ways to recognize Lucas down the line for his work on the interstate project, as well as other achievements during his 40-plus years in state office.

There has not been any new proposal since the first was pulled from the commission agenda last month, she said.

“I just want you to know there is absolutely no attempt to disrespect anybody,” Elaine Lucas said. “This was just a well-intentioned desire on a part of a number of people to say thank you to Senator Lucas.”

Earlier this month, commissioners passed a measure to fly POW-MIA flags outside of the Macon-Bibb County Government Center and Bibb County courthouse.

Commissioner Valerie Wynn said it would be disrespectful to rename or add any other name to the interchange.

“I think that when we start talking about things like this and start having petitions go through, petitions can turn into proposals,” she said.

Any proposal to name a portion of an interstate after someone has to be approved by the state Legislature and GDOT.

©2019 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)
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