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South Bend street renamed to honor community leader

A street in downtown South Bend is now named after a community leader.

Charles Martin Senior Drive will replace Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Drive.

The change was made to avoid confusion with the new Dr. Martin King Jr. Boulevard.

City officials say they wanted the name to reflect the values of inclusion and empowerment.

“There’s a lot in a name," says Mayor Pete Buttigieg. "A name tells you what a community values. The choices we make about the names, the layout of our city, these choices really say something about us.”

The name Charles Martin Senior fit that bill.

"I don't think Charlie wanted a building named after him. I don't think he wanted a street named after him. He just wanted to leave a committed life behind,” said Martin’s brother-in-law, Johnnie R. Johnson.

Family, students, and others touched by Charles Martin Sr. gathered Friday to recognize his impact and celebrate at the Charles Martin Center.

He spent over 20 years as the director of the YMCA Urban Youth Services Program in South Bend.

Charles had three children, but was a father figure to many.

"I also remember my dad not being at home a lot, but I always knew where he was. He was out in the community. It was tough sometimes sharing your father with everyone else, and as a child it was more difficult to understand it,” said his son, Charles Martin Junior.

Charles Martin Jr. says he now appreciates his father's efforts.

Many people he helped, spoke about how he changed their lives. From sending a perfectly timed letter to hosting the safest, but most fun dances at the “Y”.

"Sometimes giving time is more valuable than giving money, and that's what he did. He gave a lot of time to this community,” said Johnson.

The street name comes more than 20 years after his death. Charles Sr. died in 1994 at the age of 50.

"I think the fact that it's happening now, after 20 years and so much is going on even in his memory since then, it means that people were inspired by his life. Meaning that people took actions to help others based on I guess the catalyst that he was in their lives,” said Martin Jr.

The Charles Martin "Touch a Life" scholarship continues to shape the community.

It provides African-American students with money for college. Those students then give back by interning with local charities.

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