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The Tiger

    Letter to the Editor

    I am a student at the University of Maryland, where I am Mr. Black Student Union and an NAACP leader. Last spring, we petitioned our president, calling on him to support renaming our university’s football stadium, and our president formed a work group, which analyzed how similar issues had been handled on other campuses, including Clemson. The group found that the Board of Trustees at Clemson had formed a task force for Tillman Hall, but the work group at Maryland noted that one of the obstacles to a name change for Tillman Hall was that changing the names of historical buildings in South Carolina may require a two-thirds vote of the state legislature.


    At any rate, the work group at Maryland concluded its work in December, and Maryland’s Board of Regents ultimately approved the change; however, I was still interested in the developments related to the task force at Clemson. On Friday, I was told that the task force had issued its report, which did not include a recommendation for a Tillman change, presumably for legal reasons. In relevant part, the report reads, “[T]he South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000 clearly states that the authority to change the names of historical buildings rests solely with the South Carolina General Assembly. The Board is bound to comply with existing law and therefore name changes were not considered.”


    But the task force’s description of the law is inaccurate, because, in fact, the law states, “any monument, marker, memorial, school, or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the civil rights movement located on any municipal, county, or state property shall not be removed, changed, or renamed without the enactment of a joint resolution by a two thirds vote of the membership of each house of the General Assembly approving same.”


    It is worth noting that the provision only applies to things named in honor of the the civil rights movement or the Confederacy.


    Tillman Hall was obviously not named in honor of the civil rights movement, but it is also clear that Tillman Hall was not named in honor of the Confederacy, because Senator Ben Tillman was not in the Confederate Army. In fact, he was taunted for this, and, in his defense, his friends later said that he was an invalid during the Civil War, and the victim of chronic rheumatism while a boy, and therefore incapable of military service. Notably, his friends’ excuses were derided by his political enemies.


    The bottom line is this: if what is now called Tillman Hall had instead been named for someone like Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, or even Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest, the South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000 would apply, but, because it was named for the Civil War-dodging Ben Tillman, the law is not applicable.


    Should readers have any questions or concerns regarding this or any other matter, they are welcome to contact me.

    [email protected]

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