Could a proposed new law compel Fort Bragg, a picturesque tourist and fishing hamlet on the Mendocino County coast, to change its name?
A literal reading of Senate Bill 539, introduced by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, indicates it could.
The measure is the newest effort to expunge any references to the Confederate States of America from California’s public places, sparked by the massacre of nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., last month.
It’s aimed directly at two schools in Southern California named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but could have a wider effect, including Fort Bragg, a 19th Century military outpost in California that later became an incorporated city after the U.S. Army departed. It now has about 7,500 residents.
Prior to the Civil War, it was named for Braxton Bragg, a U.S. Army officer who later became a high-ranking Confederate general and close adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Ft. Bragg, the Army’s headquarters for airborne and special forces in North Carolina, is also named for Braxton Bragg.
SB 539 declares, “On and after January 1, 2017, a name associated with the Confederate States of America shall not be used to name state or local property. If a name associated with the Confederate States of America is used to name state or local public property prior to January 1, 2017, the name shall be changed and any sign associated with the name shall be removed.”
It continues, “For the purpose of this section, ‘name associated with the Confederate States of America’ includes, but is not limited to, the name of an elected leader or a senior military officer of the Confederacy.”
“I doubt whether it would apply to a city,” Steve Harmon, a spokesman for Glazer said, adding, “It is not our intent to apply to cities.”
Harmon said the intent is to affect schools, buildings and other public facilities, and Glazer’s office will seek advice from the Legislature’s attorney on any wider effects. However, even that list would include facilities, such as the Fort Bragg City Hall, carrying Braxton Bragg’s name.
Fort Bragg city officials were not available for comment late Tuesday.