Trustees to Ask Legislators to Allow Winthrop to Restore Name of Administration Building
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Trustees to Ask Legislators to Allow Winthrop to Restore Name of Administration Building

June 19, 2020

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trustees do not have the power themselves to change the name of Tillman, the university’s administration hub and its first building.
  • That power belongs to the S.C. General Assembly who enacted the Heritage Act of 2000 as part of a compromise that led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House dome.

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Winthrop University’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its June 19 meeting on a resolution requesting state legislators to consider an amendment to the Heritage Act of 2000 to allow Winthrop to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of Main Building.

Trustees do not have the power themselves to change the name of Tillman, the university’s administration hub and its first building. That power belongs to the S.C. General Assembly who enacted the Heritage Act of 2000 as part of a compromise that led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House dome. The act forbids the removal of other flags from public property or memorials for any war, historic figure or event without a two-thirds vote by state legislators.

“Trustees believe this will strengthen the sense of belonging among members of the campus community and is the right thing to do,” said Glenn McCall, chair of the Board of Trustees. “We also resolved to advance equality and inclusion in order to become a truly diverse, inclusive, and tolerant community for all members of the Winthrop family.”

Tillman Hall was named for Benjamin R. Tillman, a South Carolina governor, U.S. senator and a driving force behind state support for Winthrop. He was keynote speaker in 1894 at the laying of the building's cornerstone, which records the "Winthrop Normal and Industrial School of South Carolina" designation.

A divisive man, Tillman gained popularity as a staunch supporter of agricultural populism and then became the architect of state Jim Crow laws. He is remembered as an avowed white supremacist and a violent advocate of lynch law.

The name change occurred in 1962 when Tillman Science Building was razed and Main Building was renamed to honor Tillman’s advocacy of Winthrop.

The June 19 resolution is the first step toward a possible restoration of the earlier name and one of several efforts Winthrop has made this month during the current national focus on racism, oppression and privilege.

Interim President George Hynd has said that like others around the country, the Winthrop community has the responsibility to look in the mirror as well. “While our black student numbers reflect the composition of our state and we tout our commitment to diversity with examples of mostly recent accomplishments, we can and must do better,” Hynd said in an email to the campus. “How can we support our colleagues, students and friends of color? How do we hold Winthrop accountable to its commitment? How can individuals become effective allies? What actionable steps can we put in place beyond this moment that will have needed impact?”

The Division of Student Affairs and the Diversity Council has recently brainstormed ways Winthrop can move forward to become better change agents. One of the first steps was a virtual panel discussion on Wednesday called Diversity Dialogues: A Discussion on Racism. The Athletics Department also has developed a robust action plan for staff and student-athletes to advance racial equality moving forward.

There have been periodic student requests over the years for a name change for Tillman Hall. The historic building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, has housed offices, classrooms, a swimming pool, museum, art gallery, the library, and a gymnasium, among others.

For more information, contact Judy Longshaw, news and media services manager, at longshawj@winthrop.edu.

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Last Updated: 6/19/20