JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (WBRC) - Individual buildings on campus at Jacksonville State University are often named for faculty members, and school presidents. Ernest Stone, Houston Cole, Theron Montgomery and William Meehan are among the past presidents whose names are on buildings.
But the main administrative building on campus is named after a former Alabama governor, the state's first two term governor and a former high leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
And there is a move afoot, mostly for that last reason, to remove his name from the building.
The school’s acting president, Dr. Don Killingsworth, announced a student task force has been organized to look into the possibility of renaming some buildings on campus whose current names may have racist origins.
That came in a Facebook message this week on the school's Facebook page, addressing the numerous protests over the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
"JSU’s administration is aware of the conversation taking place on social media regarding the names of certain buildings on our campus. Please know that we hear you," says Killingsworth's message. "The administration has appointed a special task force of students to further address the building names in conjunction with the Student Government Association President. According to the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, we must obtain State approval to change the names of buildings more than 40 years old on state property."
Killingsworth says the school is also actively recruiting a Diversity and Inclusion administrator.
One recent graduate, Matthew Reeves, who graduated in May, has begun an online petition over the name on the school's administration building.
Bibb Graves Hall is named after Bibb Graves, a two term governor of Alabama, and was built during his first term in 1930. A bust of Graves sits in the lobby.
Graves was the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan, and according to many sources, was elected to his first term with Klan support.
“As soon as I found that out, I mean, it’s our main administration building. Everyone says the name of the hall. It’s the first building you come to when you’re a new student. So just saying his name brings honor, it brings awareness to his name, and saying that, is not something we should be doing,” Reeves said.
Reeves says he got the idea for the petition from a friend who started a similar petition at the University of North Alabama, to have Graves' name removed from a building on that campus.
Reeves says he found nothing in his research to indicate Graves ever renounced his Klan affiliation, as one of his contemporaries, U.S. Senator Hugo Black, who later became a U.S. Supreme Court justice, did.
“Jacksonville State University along with many other state funded universities have an academic building named after Former Alabama Governor David Bibb Graves. However, it has now become common knowledge that Graves was the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan. In an effort to enact real change for racial injustice, this petition will serve to increase awareness and stop the honorarium of racist individuals,” says the petition on change.org.
The petition suggests renaming the administration building in honor of Mrs. Barbara Crook-Storey, the first black student admitted to JSU, who graduated in 1969.
As of Thursday afternoon, the JSU petition has received just more than 3,000 signatures.
In addition to UNA and JSU, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, the University of Montevallo, Alabama A & M, and Alabama State University all have buildings named after Governor Bibb Graves.