Jefferson Davis Highway

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Jefferson Davis Highway
Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway
Route information
Major junctions
East endArlington, Virginia
West endSan Diego, California
StatesVirginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Arkansas
Highway system
Auto Trails
Highway in Dublin, Georgia

The Jefferson Davis Highway, also known as the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway,[1] was a planned transcontinental highway in the United States in the 1910s and 1920s that began in Arlington, Virginia, and extended south and west to San Diego, California; it was named for Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, United States senator, and Secretary of War. Because of unintended conflict between the National Auto Trail movement and the federal government, it is unclear whether it ever really existed in the complete form that its United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) founders originally intended.[2]


In the first quarter of the 20th century, as the automobile gained in popularity, a system of roads began to develop informally through the actions of private interests. These were known as auto trails. They existed without the support or coordination of the federal government, although in some states, the state governments participated in their planning and development. The first of these National Auto Trails was the Lincoln Highway, which was first announced as a project in 1912.

With the need for new roads being so significant, dozens of new auto trails were begun in the decade following. One such roadway was the Jefferson Davis Highway, which was sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The UDC planned the formation of the Jefferson Davis as a road that would start in Arlington, Virginia, and travel through the southern states until its terminus at San Diego, California. More than ten years after the route-planning and marking of the Jefferson Davis on existing roadways was begun, it was announced that it would be extended north out of San Diego and go to the Canada–US border.[3]

End of the auto trails[edit]

Jefferson Davis Highway marker in Gretna, Louisiana, 2008

By the mid-1920s, the informal system of national auto trails had grown cumbersome, and the federal government imposed a numbering system on the nation's highways, using even numbers for east–west routes and odd numbers for north–south routes. Rather than using a single number for each auto trail, sections of each trail were given different numerical designations. However, the UDC petitioned the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads to designate the Jefferson Davis as a national highway with a single number. The Bureau's reply casts doubt on whether or not the JDMH ever really existed as a transcontinental highway:

A careful search has been made in our extensive map file in the Bureau of Public Roads and three maps showing the Jefferson Davis highways have been located, but the routes on these maps are themselves different and neither route is approximately that described by you, so that I am somewhat at a loss as to just what route your constituents are interested in. For instance, there is the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway which extends from Miami, Florida to Los Angeles (but not to San Francisco); and there is another Jefferson Davis Highway shown on the Rand-McNally maps which extends from Fairview, Kentucky the site of the Jefferson Davis monument, by a very circuitous route to New Orleans, but I find no route whatever bearing the name Jefferson Davis extending from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. [emphasis added][2]

This problem may well have been the fault of the UDC themselves. In addition to the planned transcontinental route, they also designated an auxiliary route running from Kentucky to Mississippi, as well as another that ran through Georgia. These ancillary routes were intended to commemorate important venues in Davis's life, but they also contributed to the confusion of the federal government in trying to locate exactly where the Jefferson Davis highway traveled. What is known is that when numbered highways came into existence, the Jefferson Davis National Highway was split among US Route 1, US 15, US 29, US 61, US 80, US 90, US 99, US 190 and others. Today, many of these numbered routes themselves are no longer extant, having been supplanted by the Interstate Highway System.

Remaining portions[edit]

Although it may not be possible to view the entire length of the highway on a map today, many parts of it still exist, scattered across the country. This is an incomplete listing (from East to West) of some of the places today where one can see pieces of the Jefferson Davis highway.


As of 2020, the portion of U.S. 1 between and including Prince William County and Caroline County is designated Jefferson Davis Highway, as is a separate portion from southern Richmond through Chesterfield County.

The Virginia General Assembly defined the Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia on March 17, 1922, as traveling from Arlington at the 14th Street Bridge to the Commonwealth's border with North Carolina south of Clarksville. This corridor was defined as US 1/US 15 in 1926, although US 1 took a shorter route between south of McKenney and South Hill. (The Jefferson Davis Highway used what was then SR 122 and SR 12).[4] The highway's original eastern terminus marker was located at the Virginia end of the 14th Street Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The marker was there until the 1960s, when it was moved to a nearby location for safety reasons.[2]

The designation "Jefferson Davis Highway" was extended to Virginia State Route 110 when it was constructed in 1964, thus creating an continuous route from Alexandria to Rosslyn.[5] Fairfax County changed the name to "Richmond Highway" around 1970.[6] The Alexandria portion of the route was renamed "Richmond Highway" in January 2019,[7] and the Arlington portion received the same renaming in May 2019.[8]

State Route 712 and U.S. Route 58 are still defined as the Jefferson Davis Highway, as well as U.S. Route 58 Business in Lawrenceville and Boydton.[9]

The Falling Creek and Proctor Creek highway markers in Chesterfield County, Brook Road Marker in Henrico County, Ashland Marker in Hanover County, and Elliott Grays Marker and Maury Street Marker in Richmond, Virginia are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[10]

Marker along US 278 in Crawfordville, GA

North Carolina[edit]

The Jefferson Davis Highway traverses through the state for 162 miles (261 km). Starting at the Virginia state line along US 15 to Sanford; then on US 1 from Sanford to the South Carolina state line. Designation of highway was approved on May 28, 1955.[11][12]

South Carolina[edit]

The Jefferson Davis Highway traverses through the state for 170 miles (270 km). Starting at the North Carolina state line, it follows US 1 to the Georgia state line near Augusta. Several monuments can be found along the route including in Camden and Aiken.[13][14]




In Alabama, the segment of US 80 from Selma to Montgomery is the most famous part of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway today. On this road, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the 1965 Voting Rights March that helped prompt Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. This road also extends through eastern Montgomery and today is known as the Atlanta Highway, although interstate I-85 has replaced the route to Atlanta.


In Biloxi, located at 2244 Beach Boulevard in front of "Beauvoir", the last home of Jefferson Davis. It is located on the coastline overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.


The original alignment of the main route traversed from Sabine River to El Paso, via Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Alpine and Van Horn. This routing today would predominantly be along US 90, with US 290 and I-35 connecting Austin. A coastal spur, branching from Houston to Brownsville, travels along US 59 and US 77. At least 18 markers are still in existence across the state.[16] TXDOT did not officially adopt the Jefferson Davis Highway name on any of its state highways. Several of the highway markers have been removed from public property and relocated, including in San Antonio[17] and San Marcos[18], with the City of Elgin, TX voting to remove marker there as well. [19]

New Mexico[edit]

Parts along I-10 were signed as Jefferson Davis Highway; however, markers were removed by DOT. “Officials of the state Department of Transportation now believe they have removed the last remaining memorials to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Interstate 10 rest areas in New Mexico.”[20]


In 1961, the Arizona State Government passed legislation, officially designating the entire route of U.S. Route 80 in Arizona as the Jefferson Davis Highway. Some monuments displaying the name of the highway still remain along the segments of the old route (such as a roadside marker on U.S. Route 60 near Gold Canyon). The validity of the designation present day is debatable, as US 80 is no longer an active highway in Arizona.[21] However, the Route 80 designation still exists within Arizona in other forms. One segment of US 80 still exists in the form of Arizona State Route 80.[22] Most of former US 80 in Arizona is also signed and designated as Historic US 80.[23]


The western terminus of the highway was identified by a monument on Horton Plaza, in downtown San Diego. The formal opening of the highway at this terminus was performed by President Warren Harding. Photographs of this event are available in the archives of the San Diego Union-Tribune and in the files of the San Diego Historical Society. Markers also exist in the California municipalities of Bakersfield, Fort Tejon, Hornbrook, and Winterhaven.[24]

The Jefferson Davis monument on Horton Plaza was removed on August 16, 2017, following the Unite the Right rally in Virginia.[25]

Following the George Floyd protests in 2020, the marker in Hornbrook, California was removed by protestors [26]


Fort Smith, Arkansas JDH monument

the Arkansas State Legislature declared this Highway (now Arkansas Highway 22) as the Jefferson Davis Highway In 1925. This plaque was erected in 1957 by the Daughters of the Confederacy. Located near downtown Fort Smith, Arkansas, the stone the plaque is mounted to is from the original Fort Smith military outpost constructed in 1839. The monument remains in place in May 2020.



On August 17, 2017, the Jefferson Davis Highway road-side marker beside U.S. Route 60 near Gold Canyon was "tarred and feathered",[27] presumably in response to the Unite the Right rally the previous weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.[citation needed] The marker is a remnant of when U.S. Route 80 previously existed over the same roadway, which was designated as the Jefferson Davis Highway by the Arizona state legislature in 1961. In response to the controversy, the Arizona Department of Transportation stated the Jefferson Davis Highway "no longer exists" within the state as US 80 was decommissioned and removed from Arizona in 1989, suggesting ADOT does not recognize the current State Route 80 as being the same highway.[21]


The northeastern Virginia section of the highway approximates the route of the older Washington and Alexandria Turnpike, which received its charter from the United States Congress in 1808.[28] A street in Crystal City once designated as "Old Jefferson Davis Highway" parallels the east side of US 1,[29] part of which was known as Jefferson Davis Highway in the area until 2019.[30] This street, which was the original route of the highway, now ends before reaching the 14th Street Bridge.[29][31]

In 2011, the Arlington County Board voted to change the name of the street to "Long Bridge Drive" after the board's chairman stated: "I have a problem with 'Jefferson Davis' ... There are aspects of our history I'm not particularly interested in celebrating". However, the name of the county's section of Jefferson Davis Highway itself, a portion of U.S. 1 that only the Virginia General Assembly could legally rename in 2011, remained unchanged.[32][33]

In 2012, the Virginia General Assembly changed its statute, granting Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) the authority to change the name of a primary highway, such as Jefferson Davis Highway, that the General Assembly had originally named.[34] In February 2016, Virginia Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Bourne issued an advisory opinion that the City of Alexandria had the legal authority to change the name of the portion of Jefferson Davis Highway that was within the city's jurisdiction.[35]

In September 2016, the Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to change the name of the city's portion of the highway, but did not take a vote on a new name for the road.[36] In June 2018, the city council voted unanimously to change the road's name to Richmond Highway, the name already used in adjacent Fairfax County.[37]

In its 2016 legislative package, the Arlington County Board asked the Virginia General Assembly to rename the portion of Jefferson Davis Highway that was within the county.[38][39][40][41] However, no member of Arlington's legislative delegation offered any such legislation during the 2016 session of the General Assembly.[42]

In 2019, Arlington County finally succeeded in changing the name of the portion of the highway within the county after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring concluded that, in accordance with the 2012 change in the Commonwealth's statute, the CTB had the authority to change the highway's name within the county. The Arlington County Board then voted unanimously on April 25 to approve a resolution that asked the CTB to rename to Richmond Highway the 2.56-mile portion of Jefferson Davis Highway that lay within the county’s borders.[34] After receiving a letter of support from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, the CTB voted on May 15 to change to Richmond Highway the name of the portions of U.S. Route 1 and Virginia State Route 110 within Arlington County that at the time bore the name of Jefferson Davis Highway.[30][43]


Jefferson Davis Highway Maker from Blaine Washington, now displayed at Jefferson Davis Park outside Ridgefield, Washington

In 1939, the Washington State Legislature proposed naming U.S. Route 99 as the "Jefferson Davis Highway", making it the final component of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway,[44] but it was never made official.[45]

In 1998, officials of the city of Vancouver removed a marker of the Jefferson Davis Highway and placed it in a cemetery shed in an action that several years later became controversial.[46] The marker was subsequently moved twice, and eventually was placed alongside Interstate 5 on private land (Jefferson Davis Park) purchased for the purpose of giving the marker a permanent home.[47][48]

The marker stone in Blaine, Washington, was removed in 2002 through the efforts of State Representative Hans Dunshee and city officials, and after it was discovered that the highway was never officially designated by the state to memorialize Davis.[45] Both markers now rest in the Sons of Confederate Veterans-owned Jefferson Davis Park near Ridgefield, adjacent to I-5.[49] In 2002, the Washington House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would have removed Davis's name from the road. However, a committee of the state's senate subsequently killed the proposal.[50][51]

In March 2016, the Washington State Legislature unanimously passed a joint memorial that asked the state transportation commission to designate what was left of old U.S. Route 99, Washington State Route 99, "William P. Stewart Memorial Highway" to honor an African-American volunteer during the Civil War who later became a pioneer of the town and city of Snohomish.[52][53][54] In May 2016, the transportation commission agreed to the renaming.[55][56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway - General Highway History - Highway History - Federal Highway Administration". Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Weingroff, Richard F. (April 7, 2011). "Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway". Highway History. Federal Highway Administration, United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  3. ^ Knight, Christopher (July 8, 2020). "Commentary: A fitting end to the last Confederate monument in Southern California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  4. ^ "VA 121 to 140". Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. ^ "Lynching and Jeff Davis Highway". Consortiumnews. February 12, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  6. ^ "What to Call the Corridor: Is it Route 1 or Richmond Highway?". Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  7. ^ Nirappil, Fenit; Hernandez, Arelis R. (December 31, 2018). "A plastic straw ban and a Confederate name change: New laws in the D.C. region in 2019". Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  9. ^ Virginia Route Index, revised July 1, 2003 Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine (PDF)
  10. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  11. ^ "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 19, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  12. ^ Google (March 3, 2011). "Jefferson Davis Highway in North Carolina" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  13. ^ "Historical marker/historic landmark in Camden, Kershaw, SC, US; Jefferson Davis Highway (Camden, SC)". Archived from the original on January 11, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  14. ^ Google (January 26, 2012). "Jefferson Davis Highway in South Carolina" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  15. ^ Sprinterman (August 10, 2009). "Jefferson Davis Highway Marker-Walton County Georgia". U.S. Historic Survey Stones and Monuments on Groundspeak, Inc. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  16. ^ United Daughters of the Confederacy – Texas. "Jefferson Davis Highway". Archived from the original on May 3, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  17. ^ Krapf, Randall (November 9, 2015). "Bexar's Confederate markers to get new home". My San Antonio. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  18. ^ Krapf, Randall (September 30, 2016). "Texas State Quietly Removes Confederate Monument". The Texas Observer. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  19. ^ Krapf, Randall (November 13, 2019). "Elgin Courier". Elgin Courier. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  20. ^ Krapf, Randall (August 26, 2018). "All Confederate markers removed from I-10 rest areas, New Mexico says". Las Cruces Sun News. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Fischer, Howard (October 17, 2017). "Jefferson Davis Highway 'no longer exists' in Arizona — but its marker will stay". Arizona Daily Star. Tucson. Capitol Media Services. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  22. ^ Arizona Department of Transportation. "ADOT Right-of-Way Resolution 1989-12-A-096". Arizona Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  23. ^ Davis, Shaq (September 21, 2018). "Arizona's portion of U.S. Route 80, opened in 1926, wins 'Historic Road' status". Arizona Daily Star. Tucson. Retrieved September 21, 2018 – via
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 16, 2017. Retrieved August 19, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ Stewart, Joshua. "Plaque honoring Confederate president quietly removed from Horton Plaza Park in San Diego". Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  26. ^ Neumann, Erik (June 17, 2020). "How did a Confederate Monument in Northern California get removed?". Jefferson Public Radio.
  27. ^ "Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway monument tarred and feathered". Phoenix Fox News 10. August 17, 2017. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  28. ^ Rose, C.B., Jr. (1976). Arlington County, Virginia: A History. Arlington Historical Society, Inc. p. 75.
  29. ^ a b Arlington County Manager (September 9, 2011). "Renaming of Old Jefferson Davis Highway between Boundary Channel Drive and 12th Street South, effective April 1, 2012". Government of Arlington County, Virginia. pp. 1–3, 8. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  30. ^ a b Smith, Max (May 15, 2019). "Jefferson Davis Highway name changed in Arlington". WTOP-FM. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  31. ^ Coordinates of Old Jefferson Davis Highway: 38°52′01″N 77°02′52″W / 38.866862°N 77.047677°W / 38.866862; -77.047677 (Old Jefferson Davis Highway (renamed to "Long Bridge Drive")
  32. ^ "News Release: Old Jefferson Davis Highway to be Renamed "Long Bridge Drive"". Newsroom. Arlington County, Virginia government. September 21, 2011. Archived from the original on October 10, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  33. ^ McCaffrey, Scott (September 28, 2011). "Road Renaming Proves Another Chance to Re-Fight the Civil War". Arlington Sun Gazette. Springfield, Virginia: Sun Gazette Newspapers. Archived from the original on August 14, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  34. ^ a b "News Release: County Board to Request Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway Within Arlington's Borders". Arlington County Government. April 26, 2019. Archived from the original on April 26, 2019. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  35. ^ McCaffrey, Scott (August 29, 2016). "'Jefferson Davis' hanging on, but for how long?: Jurisdictions have different routes to removing highway name". InsideNOVA. Leesburg, VA: Northern Virginia Media Services. Archived from the original on January 5, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  36. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (September 17, 2016). "Alexandria will seek to move Confederate statue and rename Jefferson Davis Highway". Virginia Politics. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  37. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (June 23, 2018). "Alexandria renames Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway". Virginia Politics. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  38. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (July 10, 2015). "A road named for Confederate leader comes under fire 150 years after war". Virginia Politics. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  39. ^ McCaffrey, Scott. "Arlington may seek removal of 'Jefferson Davis' from highway". InsideNOVA. Leesburg, VA: Northern Virginia Media Services. Archived from the original on February 10, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  40. ^ Arlington County Manager (November 19, 2015). "County Board Agenda Item: Meeting of December 12, 2015: Subject: Adoption of the 2016 General Assembly Legislative Package". Government of Arlington County, Virginia. p. 2. 7. Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway: Work with General Assembly and the community toward renaming the Arlington portion of Jefferson Davis Highway in a way that is respectful to all who live and work along it.
  41. ^ McCaffrey, Scott (December 17, 2015). "Arlington County Board finalizes state legislative priorities". InsideNOVA. Leesburg, VA: Northern Virginia Media Services. Archived from the original on February 10, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  42. ^ McCaffrey, Scott (January 28, 2016). "No push in Richmond to nix name of Jefferson Davis from highway". InsideNOVA. Leesburg, VA: Northern Virginia Media Services. Archived from the original on February 10, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  43. ^ LeGrand, Lindsay (May 15, 2019). "CTB Renames Jefferson Davis Highway In Arlington County; Names Amherst County Bridge After Fallen Trooper; Approves Round 3 Smart Scale Changes". VDOT News - Statewide. VDOT: Virginia Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on June 18, 2019. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  44. ^ Ray, Susanna (January 24, 2002). "Jefferson Davis Highway here? Legislator outraged". HeraldNet. Everett, Washington: Everett Herald and Sound Publishing, Inc. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  45. ^ a b Berger, Knute (June 22, 2015). "Confederate symbols also blight the Northwest". Crosscut. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  46. ^ "Road Named for Jefferson Davis Stirs Spirited Debate". The New York Times. February 14, 2002. Retrieved May 8, 2009. Another granite marker proclaiming the road's designation as the Jefferson Davis Highway was erected at the time in Vancouver, Wash., at the highway's southern terminus. It was quietly removed by city officials four years ago and now rests in a cemetery shed there, but publicity over the bill has brought its mothballing to light and stirred a contentious debate there about whether it should be restored.
  47. ^ "History of the Jefferson Davis Park". Sons of Confederate Veterans Portland. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  48. ^ "Jefferson Davis Park". Sons of Confederate Veterans Portland. Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  49. ^ "Jefferson Davis Park". Sons of Confederate Veterans Pacific NW Division. June 27, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  50. ^ Verhovek, Sam Howe (February 14, 2002). "Road Named for Jefferson Davis Stirs Spirited Debate". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  51. ^ "Senate Committee Kills Plan To Rename Jefferson Davis Highway". Seattle, Washington: Sinclair Interactive Media. August 30, 2006. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  52. ^ "House Joint Memorial 4010: As Amended by the Senate" (PDF). 64th Legislature: 2016 Regular Session. Washington State Legislature. March 8, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  53. ^ "History of the Bill as of Tuesday, September 20, 2016". HJM 4010 - 2015-16: Requesting that state route number 99 be named the "William P. Stewart Memorial Highway". Washington State Legislature. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  54. ^ "Stewart, William P. (1839–1907)". African American History in the American West: Online Encyclopedia of Significant People and Places. 2015. Archived from the original on April 4, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  55. ^ Cornfield, Jerry (May 17, 2016). "SR 99 to be renamed for Snohomish black Civil War soldier". HeraldNet. Everett, Washington: Everett Herald and Sound Publishing, Inc. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  56. ^ Muhlstein, Julie (May 21, 2016). "Highway 99 renamed in honor of Snohomish settler William P. Stewart". HeraldNet. Everett, Washington: Everett Herald and Sound Publishing, Inc. Archived from the original on September 20, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

General information