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Mayor Vince Gray will ask the D.C. Council to honor deceased Ward 8 activist James Bunn by renaming a street after him, the mayor announced at Bunn’s memorial service today.

Gray’s request, if successful, would change Esther Place SE at the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Bunn Street. Gray also awarded Bunn with a posthumous mayor’s medal of honor.

“I don’t know who Esther was, maybe you all do,” Gray said at the ceremony at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church. “I sure as heck know who James Edward Bunn was.”

The 71-year-old Bunn, who died on Aug. 1, ran Congress Heights Main Streets and the Ward 8 Business Council. Bunn also owned Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue’s Bunn Building, which Marion Barry described during the ceremony as a symbol of successful African-American business.

Bunn was remembered as an advocate for increasing the number of businesses in the ward. “He wanted to be able to go to a restaurant, he wanted to be able to go to a carryout,” Gray said. “And he wanted to be able to do it in his own neighborhood.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton thanked Bunn for raising daughter Sheila Bunn, who worked as Norton’s chief of staff until Gray “pilfered” her to be his deputy chief of staff.

Several speakers mentioned Bunn’s championing of the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters on the St. Elizabeths West Campus. Rev. Anthony J. Motley pointed at a vice-admiral from the Coast Guard in the audience as evidence of Bunn’s prominence in the ward.

“Even though he’s the head honcho, when the U.S. Coast Guard wanted to come to Ward 8, he had to meet with the head honcho of Ward 8,” Motley said. “And it was Mr. Bunn.”

Photo courtesy Sheila Bunn