Names of Aurora leaders among those considered to replace Stapleton neighborhood’s moniker in the wake of George Floyd events

A Stapleton resident rides his bike through the neighborhood, July 15, 2020.Those in the neighborhood will be voting from a choice of nine names to rename the neighborhood.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | The Stapleton neighborhood will soon be known as the neighborhood formerly known as Stapleton, as well as something new.

A vote is underway on a list of nine names to replace its current association with a former mayor known for his Ku Klux Klan connection.

The available options are detailed on the site run by the neighborhood organization, Stapleton United Neighbors.

The neighborhood was named for former Denver Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton and was built beginning in 2001 on the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

Stapleton served as mayor for a total of 20 years between 1923 and 1947 and was a member of the KKK.

More than 65% of voting property owners opted to retain the Stapleton name in a referendum last summer. However, the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, and ensuing unrest in Denver and across the country, renewed discussion of a name change for the neighborhood.

Residents seem to be ready now.

Aurora Congressman Jason Crow, who’s lived in the neighborhood since 2009, said last year he favored the name change.

“As parents, we work to raise our kids to be kind and inclusive to everyone, but to have the neighborhood they are growing up in named after a KKK member runs directly counter to everything we’re trying to teach them,” he said. “Eradicating racism goes far beyond a neighborhood name, but it’s a good place to start.”

Crow previously lived in the Denver-side of Stapleton, but moved to a house in the neighborhood with an Aurora address when he ran for Congress in 2018.

Other politicos have backed the name change, too. Among them is Benjamin Walker’s great grandson, Walker Stapleton. He most recently served as Colorado’s state treasurer, from 2011 to 2019, and had an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2019.

“Disappointed only that dem process overlooked; votes cast multiple times by neighborhood residents. BUT.. IF..changing a name brings more equity, fairness and oppt’y for Denverites and specifically Coloradans of Color, I’m all IN,” he wrote on Twitter earlier this year.

Potential new neighborhood names include Mosley, to honor John Mosley, a Tuskegee airman during World War II, and his wife, Edna, a former Aurora City Councilperson and civil rights activist; Meadowlark, for a species of bird native to the area with ties to indigenous history; and Peterson, in memory of Helen Peterson, who advocated for civil rights for American Indians and was tasked with reorganizing the National Congress of American Indians at the request of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Renaming the neighborhood to Mosely would give the Denver-centric neighborhood another tie to Aurora, where development has spilled over to in recent years.

John Mosley died in 2015 at the age of 93. He was a standout football player in Denver as a teenager. He went on to be the first black football player at Colorado State University.

Upon graduation, with the Second World War well underway, Mosley took to the skies. He hoped to be drafted to join the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen of Alabama. Instead, he was assigned to an artillery unit at Fort Sill, Okla., until a letter-writing campaign prompted his reassignment to Tuskegee, where he trained as a bomber pilot.

In 1965, the Air Force brought John Mosely and his wife Edna to Aurora when he was transferred to Lowry Air Force Base. Edna became Aurora’s first black city council member. She served three, four-year terms, beginning in 1992. She died in 2014.

Today the couple is known as civil rights trailblazers in Colorado. They were also tremendous supporters of education. They created a non-profit organization to provide scholarships to black high school students to college. Today, the John and Edna Mosley Scholarship Fund is operated by the Denver Foundation.

In 2015, the Mosleys’ names were enshrined on Aurora Public Schools’ P-8 school on the APS Community Campus. Classes at the Edna and John W. Mosley P-8 School started in the fall. The mascot is the Red-Tailed Hawk — a reference to Mosley’s Red Tail Squadron of Tuskegee Airmen.

Owners and renters of Stapleton property can vote until Saturday. That recommendation will be followed by a vote by a community board of directors. Brookfield Properties Development, the community’s master developer, and the city and county of Denver need to approve a name change.

Former gubernatorial candidate and state treasurer Walker Stapleton, the great-grandson of the former mayor, said in June he supported a name change if it “brings more equity, fairness and opportunity” for Denver residents and Colorado residents of color.