The City Council in Fort Bragg, in Mendocino County, will soon consider whether to propose a November ballot measure to change its name. The city’s name honors Braxton Bragg, who became a Confederate Army general after lending his name to a military base that would become the City of Fort Bragg.
Bragg’s connection to California stems from his service during the Mexican-American War, where he served with future U.S. President Zachary Taylor. In honor of Bragg’s service, in 1857 his former commanding officer named a new military post in California after him, which would later become the City of Fort Bragg. By the Civil War, Bragg had betrayed the Union and served as a trusted military advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a general in the Confederate Army. Bragg is also the namesake of a ghost town in Texas and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, believed to be the largest military installation in the world, home to more than 50,000 active duty personnel.
Fort Bragg incorporated as a city in 1889, retaining the name of the military post. This is not the first time Fort Bragg has heard calls to change the city’s name; in 2015, state Senator Steven Glazer asked that Fort Bragg leaders consider a name change when he proposed SB539, which would have required renaming state or local property — but not cities — named after Confederate military leaders. Former Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB539, preferring that local leaders make such changes.
General law cities may change their names under California law by an ordinance approved by four of five Council members. Several other California cities have changed their names, including Grover Beach, one of the “Five Cities” of San Luis Obispo County, which was known as Grover City until 1992, when its residents affirmed the name change by popular vote. Fort Bragg has not yet identified an alternative name to use if its voters consider and approve a change.