highway 71

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

When Mamie Hughes first came to Kansas City, back in the early 1950s, things were a bit different than they are now.

"I used to wish I had a dollar for every time I was called n-----," says the 87-year-old.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

As a former county lawmaker, teacher, community planner, advocate and volunteer, Mamie Hughes has had a lasting impact on Kansas City. Today, we look at life of one of the metro's most dedicated activists.

Then, we meet the enthusiastic conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and ask what it's been like leading "America's Orchestra" for more than 20 years.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Mamie Hughes, 85, stands in the middle of a bridge that’s named after her, and she marvels at the power of the road below. The power of Highway 71.

“Sometimes I just like to stand here and look and watch the traffic,” she says as cars and semis zoom underneath. “Seeing how much goes, and it’s just kind of fun.”

The Mamie Hughes Bridge crosses Highway 71, or Bruce R. Watkins Drive as it’s also known, at Meyer Boulevard.

Tim Samoff / Flickr, Creative Commons

 

Highways connect people and places with a speed we've come to take for granted. But highways also have a history of dividing and sometimes nearly obliterating the very communities they intersect.

Perhaps the most controversial example of this phenomenon in Kansas City is U.S. Highway 71.