COLUMBIA, S.C. — Clemson University trustees voted Friday to rename the school’s honors college, stripping off the name of former vice president and slavery proponent John C. Calhoun.
The university’s board also publicly requested permission from the state legislature to change the name of Tillman Hall back to its original name, the Main building. The iconic campus building currently honors “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, the governor and U.S. senator who used virulent racism to dominate South Carolina politics after Reconstruction.
Other than removing the Confederate flag from state House grounds after a deadly attack on nine black Charleston church members in 2015, lawmakers have refused to take up any major changes of Confederate monuments. Change requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
Trustees cited the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has spurred protests over racial injustice and police brutality across the country, as an impetus for the renaming. The honors program will now be called the “Clemson University Honors College.”
The news came after Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, NFL stars who played college football at Clemson, spoke out against keeping Calhoun's name on the school's honor college.
Calhoun, who was born in South Carolina, declared slavery a “positive good” on the U.S. Senate floor in 1837. Tillman led a white mob in 1876 that killed several black men in Hamburg, an Aiken County town where freed slaves had settled.
Following recent protests over racial injustice and police brutality, activists have renewed calls to remove monuments and rename buildings honoring the Confederacy, slavery and white supremacy across the state.
Clemson’s honors college was established in 1962 and named after Calhoun in 1981, and the university maintains Calhoun’s plantation home Fort Hill on campus.