Al Alborn

Al Alborn

When I wrote my column last week suggesting Prince William County be renamed because its namesake was, among other things, called “Butcher Cumberland” for his actions in the 18th century, I had no idea how successful that column would be. 

When I submitted the column to my editor, I explained my intent.  It was written to start a discussion about renaming things.  While I respect those who wish to rename things, I am not particularly a fan.  I suspected few had thought about the namesake of our county and considered this might be an interesting way to examine just how far renaming could go.  

To quote George W. Bush, “Mission accomplished!”

There is no real end to renaming things.  That was my point.  Personally, I am generally against naming anything after a person.  Something will eventually come out about, well, everyone, causing a community to regret the name.  

While others are free to disagree, I favor geographic places and things for names.  As for Prince William, his notorious history has been long forgotten by most.  Like many other namesakes, when someone stumbles across the kind of history I unearthed some will object.  The goal was to do what columnists do: Write about interesting issues hoping to create public discussion.  The Butcher Cumberland column certainly did that.  It just didn’t turn out like I expected.

Thanks to all who chimed in.  Last I checked, it generated  over 200 Facebook comments, and 34 shares.  InsideNoVa’s online poll generated 1,500 votes.  I seldom get comments on the website; however, I think I achieved a “personal best” for the number of responses.  It was hard to count as some had to be deleted quickly for being a bit “uncivil.”  

Several people suggested I should move out of Prince William County.  I don’t plan to go anywhere.  I had to smile when one commenter called me a lunatic (although that is a subjective call; he might be right).  InsideNoVa’s editor had to shut down website comments after one suggested zombies must have sucked my brains out.  Some of the comments actually got kind of “scary.”

For future reference, insideNoVa does have terms of service requiring civil discourse on all online comments.  Most of the Facebook and website comments on my last column violated these terms; however, they demonstrated the broader point regarding the passion renaming things can cause in a community.   

The folks who disagreed made this column a wild success, just not in the way I had expected.   The vitriol expressed in most of the comments demonstrated how much “passion” (using a polite term) renaming something may cause. 

It was so successful, I might ask for a raise!

Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week.  You can learn more about Al at

To comment on this column, submit a letter to the editor using this online form.  Only letters that follow InsideNoVa’s guidelines and include full contact information will be considered for publication.