What’s in a name? A lot when it comes to putting one on a post office.
And that is one thing Congress loves to do.
By 2003, naming a postal facility had become the single most common form of legislation compared to other laws passed, according to the United States Postal Service.
In recent years, as much as 20 percent of laws passed were for naming post offices.
The 110th Congress - 2007-2008 - was particularly name-crazed. A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service noted that 109 bills - 24 percent of all legislation passed that year - concerned naming post offices.
That led to a crackdown. Congress has been warned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where most of the naming legislation originates, not to spend too much time on it.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved names for nine post offices. One nominee turned out to be surprisingly controversial: Maya Angelou.
Nine Republican Congressmen opposed the move because they consider the late poet and civil rights activist a Communist sympathizer.
“Congress has more important things to be doing rather than spending time naming post offices,” said Rep. Michael Burgess from Texas, who opposed the Angelou naming.
“It has been my experience in the past that these post office namings have been used to honor and remember young men and women who have lost their lives fighting for our country.”
Despite the nine objections, Angelou was approved overwhelmingly on Tuesday. Her name will now go on a post office in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she lived.
So who gets to have their name on a post office?
Except for Marilyn Monroe. U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas has tried twice to get the bombshell’s name put on a post office in Van Nuys, Calif., where she attended high school.
Postal Service rules allow buildings to be named after people who have been dead for at least 10 years. But there are exceptions, including for former presidents.
Another exception: Anyone Congress decides to so honor.
Since 1967 postal facilities have been named after important local and national figures, Congressmen, and postal employees who died in the line of duty.
Post offices have been named after entertainers (Bob Hope, Nat King Cole, Buck Owens, Karl Malden, Ray Charles), sports figures (Mickey Mantle, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden) and civil rights leaders like Angelou.
A post office in Houston, Texas was named after former African-American Congresswoman Barbara C. Jordan in 1984.
A Chicago postal facility is named after Cesar E. Chavez.
A post office in Chino Hills, Calif. was named in 2000 after Philippines-born letter carrier Joseph Ileto, who was gunned down by white supremacist Buford Furrow Jr.
In Kansas City:
▪ A post office on Blue Parkway was named in 2007 after the Rev. Wallace Hartsfield, the so-called “godfather of Kansas City ministers.”
▪ An Olathe post office was named after former Kansas Governor John Anderson, Jr. in 2006.
▪ A post office on Cleveland Avenue is named after the Rev. Earl Abel, a community activist who worked as a postal carrier before he organized Palestine Missionary Baptist Church.
▪ A post office on Nebraska Avenue in KCK bears the name of former Congressman Newell George, and a post office on Broadmoor in Mission is named after former Congressman Larry Winn, Jr.
Last year three St. Louis-area post offices were named after soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In December, a post office building in Chicago was named after Capt. Herbie Johnson, who died fighting a fire.
On rare occasion, someone turns down the honor of having a building named after them. It happened in 2002 when a Colorado Congressman nominated developmentally disabled Barney Apodaca of Fort Collins, Colo., for the honor.
President Bush had already signed legislation to make Apodaca the first disabled person in the United States to have a post office named after them.
But Apodaca protested, feeling like “you are making fun of me.” So the name change happened, but his name was never put on the building.