‘Tis true, and it is in Riviera Beach. In December 2015, a year-long effort by Mayor Thomas A. Masters resulted in the renaming of the former north-south Old Dixie Highway to President Barack Obama Highway. ‘Obama Way,’ as residents call it, meets the east-west Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (MLK) at the corner just in front of an entrance to the Port of Palm Beach. MLK Boulevard became the new name for the former West 8th Street in 1994.
It is a historic corner.
Indeed, when U.S. Senator Corey Booker was visiting Palm Beach County in 2016, he heard about this singular location and took a drive there. That is him, above, underneath the signs on the one-of-its-kind corner, which had been posted to his social media page. Senator Booker, by the way, is running for President in 2020.
“‘Old Dixie’ is a reminder of the Deep South and old, painful wounds of racial injustice,” Mayor Masters said at the time, “and it needs to go.”
Indeed, Old Dixie was famous in its own right: it became the first paved highway connecting states from north to south when it was created in 1915 by a group of state governors. According to historians, the governors wanted to spur tourism, especially with the arrival of the Model T car.
So, because the average person could now drive from, say, Chicago to Miami, they also needed motels, restaurants and gas stations along the way. That’s why the Dixie Highway System, as it was named at creation, helped changed the south: it brought folks down here from up north.
But by 1927, the bottom had fallen out as the federal government got involved in the highway business and created the numbered highway system. That killed the Dixie Highway system, but the roadway—and its name—remained.
Until August 2015, when the Riviera Beach City Council voted 4-1 in favor of the name change in their town, followed by the required approval of the Palm Beach County Commission, which owns the roadway. Those votes were a final death knell for Dixie Highway in, at least, Riviera Beach.
And at a Mayor Masters-led ceremony a few months later, city residents cheered as County workers in bucket trucks took down the old signs and put up the new ones. The newly famous intersection was borne.