House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation Thursday to name a Bakersfield post office in honor of Merle Haggard, on what would have been the country music legend's 80th birthday and the first anniversary of his death.
The bill would re-name the Downtown Bakersfield Post Office the Merle Haggard Post Office Building.
“Today we celebrate the life of one who helped put Bakersfield on the map and contributed to the creation of the famous ‘Bakersfield Sound,’” McCarthy said. “It is only suitable to honor Merle Haggard’s influence on our community’s unique culture. I look forward to naming a landmark for the ‘Poet of the Common Man” to stand in our city, which inspired some of his greatest hits to entertain a nation.”
Theresa Lane Haggard, Haggard's widow, lauded McCarthy for sponsoring the legislation.
“This is a great honor for one of Bakersfield's hometown heroes,” Haggard said. “Now, when people mail their daily dues, they will think of Merle and reminisce and remember how he touched our lives and hearts with his songs and his love for his country and its people. He gave us his all and the Haggard family sincerely thanks Representative McCarthy for spearheading this recognition for Merle and his town.”
The Bakersfield Downtown Business Association, the Downtown Bakersfield Development Corporation and Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh also support the proposal.
“The renaming of the Downtown Bakersfield Post Office in honor of Merle Haggard is indeed a fitting tribute,” Goh said. “Both Merle and the historic building capture the essence of who we are, and where we’ve been — the sound of Americana, the sound of Bakersfield.”
Haggard’s family moved to Bakersfield from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl prior to his birth in 1937. Over the course of his career, Haggard achieved 38 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and, among many other accolades, received a John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts recognition of lifetime achievement for his “outstanding contribution to American culture.”
McCarthy also led the successful effort in 2007 to designate the Post Office in Oildale in honor of Buck Owens.