Republicans Put Roadblock on Willie Nelson Highway

‘Nelson Highway’ isn’t a hit with GOP (Houston Chronicle)

For Willie Nelson, dealing with the Texas Legislature is no picnic. Fact is, the lawmakers told the state’s best-known outlaw to hit the road again. Concerned that the singer is a bit-too-vocal a Democrat and a tad too fond of the night life, some Republican lawmakers put up roadblocks to the initiative that would have named a stretch of a new freeway after the musician.

So on Wednesday, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, announced that he was putting the brakes on the idea. Barrientos had wanted to name a 49-mile stretch of Texas 130 near Austin the Willie Nelson Highway. But two GOP senators sounded a sour note. State Sens. Steve Ogden of Bryan and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio pointed out that Nelson has hosted numerous fund-raisers for Democrats and has a fondness for spirits distilled and smoked.

I’ve got to agree with Jim Henley on this one: the Republicans are being petty here.

Nelson is an American institution who transcends politics. He’s definitely an unusual fellow. There aren’t too many 72-year-old dope smoking, ponytailed country music legends running around. (Indeed, today happens to be his birthday. Happy birthday, sir.)

As to the distilled spirits, Nelson has explained that “there are more old drunks than there are old doctors, so I guess I’d better have another round.” With insights like that, he definitely deserves to have a road named after him. So long as he promises to let someone else do the driving, of course.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven L. says:

    Perhaps they could name the stretch of I-35 near Waco, Texas where he was arrested for possession?

    Perhaps a small plaque on the spot where he was found sleeping in his car?

  2. vnjagvet says:

    Here’s an old (65) conservative guy who agrees with James on this one. Willie is one of a kind who lets it all hang out, but isn’t obnoxious about it.

    More power to him, and what’s the big deal about naming a stretch of road anyhow?

  3. lunacy says:

    I agree. He’s an American original and has made an undeniable contribution to the musical tradition I refer to as Americana.

    He deserves acknowledgement just for his guitar playing. Add “Crazy” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”, and…


    He’s right up there with Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Ray Charles…

    The list goes on.

    This is the kind of stunt that makes true the stereotypes of Republicans being closed minded, unappreciative of arts and petty.

    It’s a shame.


  4. vnjagvet says:

    Of course, Republicans have no monopoly on this sort of behavior. See, e.g., Senators Boxer, Kennedy and their acolytes on

    That does not excuse the pettiness or stupidity, though, wherever it is found.

  5. Thomas laprade says:

    Leave the guy alone

  6. btflspk says:

    Next, why not a “P Diddy Parkway” somewhere?

  7. McGehee says:

    My only objection to naming the road after him is, he’s still alive.

  8. dw says:

    My only objection to naming the road after him is, he’s still alive.

    What about George Bush-Intercontinental Airport in Houston — or the George Bush Tollway in Dallas? The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston or the Ted Williams Freeway in San Diego? Reagan National Airport?

    This ain’t a coin or a stamp, this is a toll road. Stick Willie’s name on it. Maybe they’ll also name one for Waylon, too.

  9. Lucy says:

    You gotta love it. Again politians seem to take the MOST important problems this nation is facing and put it on the front burner. God Bless our boys on the Texas legislature. They know how to resolve huge problems in their state with swift action.

  10. lunacy says:

    “Next, why not a ‘P Diddy Parkway’ somewhere?”

    Because P Diddy Sucks?

    Was that a trick questions?

  11. McGehee says:

    What about George Bush-Intercontinental Airport in Houston—or the George Bush Tollway in Dallas? The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston or the Ted Williams Freeway in San Diego? Reagan National Airport?

    Well, since you ask…

    People who want to see their names on big things made of concrete have issues.

  12. McGehee says:

    Maybe they’ll also name one for Waylon, too.

    They can name this one for Waylon.

  13. Kate says:

    I’m from Bryan. I go to Austin all the time. Willie Nelson is very talented, I know one of his daughters. She is talented as well. But he doesn’t deserve a highway. I’m glad the representative from my home town put the brakes on this plan. Why should we celebrate someone who advocates breaking the law. He’s not just a bad boy, he does and says a lot of things that most Texas do not endorce. How about Audie Murrphy Highway?

  14. I like Steven L.’s idea. In fact, when I read the story yesterday, I thought of that exact story and that exact stretch of highway.

  15. Ross L Gillum says:

    I moved from the glorious Lone Star State 5 years ago, after having spent my first 49 years there. I don’t know if that gives me a license for an opinion, but here goes anyway. We all love “most” of Willie’s songs, and we all know “ALL” of Willie’s ways. With that being said, I still believe highways and byways and prominent buildings/structures should be named after leaders and respected icons in our society or from our heritage. It doesn’t matter if they are alive or dead, just how they lived and the example they are to us, our youth, and our future generations. Seriously, who wants to brag about a highway named after someone that applauds and subscribes to a degenerate nature. No wonder we are reeling from the fumes of the stench of the lack of moral values in our culture. I also agree that we have other much more important legislation to worry about, so I am glad they killed this fast. It is interesting to see the Republicans blamed when it is a Democrat that withdrew it. When did they start respecting our opinion on anything?


  16. whatever says:

    Few who commented on this – including James – lives in Texas, is from Texas, or even goes to Texas. Yet you think you get to kibbitz on what they name their roads there? I thought the people on this site were for local control over government?

    You make fun of the people who are against it, but say nothing for the people who brought it up in the first place. The side that prposed it in the first place is just as petty as the ones against it – is there really a burning issue to name a highway at all?

    And the effect of naming a highway? Zero. Zip. Hwy 59 through Houston is the Lloyd Benson highway. Few even know this and even fewer care. Let the people who live there decide what to name their roads.

  17. Jack Tanner says:

    Maybe they can call it the ‘Willie Nelson at the expense of people who did pay their taxes highway’ in memory of his ‘settlement’ with the IRS?