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Monday event will name connector for Jenkins, Best

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The 10th Street Connector between Evans Street and 14th Street has been opened by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

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The Daily Reflector

Saturday, September 14, 2019

State and local officials are scheduled to gather on Clark Street on Monday to formally open the 10th Street Connector and dedicate portions of the road for two pioneering Greenville figures.

The ceremony set for 11 a.m. will name the new road between Evans Street and Memorial Drive as the Leo W. Jenkins Highway, in honor of the longtime East Carolina University chancellor who championed creation of ECU’s medical school.

The roadway’s bridge that spans Dickinson Avenue and the city’s north-south railway to better connect ECU’s east and west campuses will be named for Dr. Andrew A. Best, a physician who served the city African-American community and worked with ECU and Pitt County Memorial Hospital to improve health care in the community.

Officials also will cut a ribbon to ceremoniously open the road, according to a DOT announcement about the event distributed on Friday.

The Greenville City Council in 2017 passed a resolution requesting the N.C. Department of Transportation to name the new road for Best and Jenkins.

The DOT announcement said the naming ceremony will take place at 1003 Clark St. on the east side of the bridge. The event will feature remarks from Preston Hunter, the DOT’s Division 2 engineer, Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly and Jack Jenkins, son of Leo Jenkins, and the Rev. Williams H. Best, nephew of Dr. Best.

Thomas Taft Jr., Greenville’s representative on the N.C. Board of Transportation, will emcee the event.

The new road actually opened in April but crews have been making finishing touches since then, including the installation Thursday of sculptures by renowned ECU art professor Hanna Jubran. A DOT spokeswoman said Friday crews will uncover signs bearing the names of Jenkins and Best on Monday.

The connector project transformed one of Greenville’s main thoroughfares from a two-lane road into a four-lane divided road with a landscaped median, the DOT news release said.

The road directly links Memorial Drive to 10th Street at Evans Street. It also provides a vital connection between Vidant Medical Center, East Carolina University and the Uptown Greenville Central Business District that won’t be interrupted by train traffic.

Best and Jenkins were pioneers in shaping North Carolina higher education and health services during the 20th century and played key roles at ECU, the release said.

Best was a physician in Greenville and practiced medicine from 1954 until 2004. He was committed to the community and his patients. Best was also the first African-American member of the ECU’s Board of Trustees and one of the first African-Americans to serve on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

He played an important role in establishing the school. Best was also a founding member of the Pitt County Interracial Committee, now called the Greenville Human Relations Council.

Jenkins started at ECU in 1947 as a faculty member. He advanced to dean and vice president and then the university’s chancellor. Jenkins advanced ECU from a college to a university with a medical research and teaching facility.

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