ORANGE COUNTY - Jap Lane residents will gather tonight to change their street's name to avoid scandal and potential lawsuits.
The session starts at 6:30 p.m. at Pecan Acres Baptist Church, south of Vidor.
The street, which is naturally divided into three sections, will have a different name for each of those sections, said Orange County Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose, who has been leading the name-change effort.
Jap Lane resident Bill Ogg, 65, said his section of the road likely will change to Cajun Way.
About 12 people along that part - a half-mile stretch from Oilla to FM 1442 - turned in ballots, Dubose said.
In the desolate section from FM 1442 to FM 1135, two people turned in ballots, Dubose said. That section likely will change to Japanese Lane, Ogg said.
The longest section, from FM 1135 to FM 105, probably will be called Duncan Woods Lane for an old settlement there, Ogg said. Along that section, 37 people turned in ballots, Dubose said.
About 50 residents submitted their recommendations for a new name to Dubose, but he said many residents protested the name change by not voting.
Mixed feelings about the change are evident.
Patricia Granger, 53, is sorry the road name will change, but won't fight it.
"We just want a peaceful situation," said Granger, an instructor at Lamar State College-Port Arthur. "We see no problem with what we got, but life moves on."
Dubose wants to change the name because he believes organizations - particularly the Anti-Defamation League and the Japanese-American League - would sue the county to force the change. Keeping the name is not worth the money, Dubose said.
In a January meeting, Dubose told residents they could change the name to whatever they want, as long as the new name isn't offensive or already assigned to a roadway in the county.
Residents along the Oilla to FM 1442 stretch ran into the latter problem in a first round of suggestions. They suggested Short Lane, Summer Lane and Joy Lane, but those were unacceptable because they already exist in the county, Dubose said. Orange County doesn't want to confuse ambulance drivers by repeating names.
Jap Lane residents said the road name is not a slur to Japanese-Americans. Instead, it was meant to honor Japanese immigrant Kichimatsu Kishi, who founded the Kishi Colony on nearby FM 1135 in 1908.
"If it offends people, I'm for changing it," Ogg said. "It's no big deal."
A similarly named roadway in Jefferson County, Jap Road, was renamed after a long battle last year between activist groups and residents. After the issue gained worldwide media attention, residents in August 2004 grudgingly renamed their street Boondocks Road, referencing a popular catfish restaurant that once operated there.
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