Family Of Late Allman Brothers Bassist Protests Bridge Renaming

Georgia city's plan to honor Berry Oakley worries sister, who says it might lead more visitors — and vandals — to his, Duane Allman's graves.

The city of Macon, Georgia, will name a local bridge for late Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley, an honor Oakley's family would just as soon avoid.

The bassist's sister, Candice Oakley, said she's worried the bridge will encourage more visitors to her brother's nearby grave, which is next to original guitarist Duane Allman's site. Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and Oakley was killed in a crash the following year.

"My real concern is protecting the integrity of the gravesites," Oakley said, adding that someone has already tried to dig up one of the vaults. "The city of Macon wants to market and profit from this, but they don't want to protect the graves."

Oakley said neither she nor Berry Oakley's daughter was consulted about naming the bridge. Georgia state Sen. Robert Brown, who sponsored the naming resolution in the legislature, said he doubts the honor will result in any more visitors to the gravesites.

"Anybody who has the kind of macabre disposition to desecrate a grave has got issues that aren't going to be deterred or encouraged by something like this," Brown said. "I just don't see the connection." He added that the bridge is more than a mile from the spot where Oakley and Allman are buried.

Oakley said she tried to stop the naming, but was told the state Department of Transportation didn't need permission, despite the fact that the resolution called for family members to be contacted.

"There are four surviving members of the original band," Oakley said. "Name it Gregg Allman Bridge or Dickey Betts Bridge. They're still alive, and they've got lawyers."

A spokesperson for the Allman Brothers Band had no comment Wednesday (March 21).

The bridge will be officially named at a ceremony on Saturday, when a downtown street will also be renamed Duane Allman Boulevard.

The graves of departed rock stars often become meccas for fans — and, sometimes, playgrounds for vandals.

Last summer in Orange Park, Florida, vandals broke into tombs containing the remains of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines, pulling out Van Zant's casket and spilling some of Gaines' ashes (see "Vandals Smash Open Tombs Containing Lynyrd Skynyrd Members").