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U-Texas reconsiders dorm named for Klan leader

According to this recent Wall Street Journal report, the University of Texas is reconsidering the wisdom of naming a dormitory near its law school after a late law professor who was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan.

William Stewart Simkins was a longtime UT law professor. According to the Journal, he and his brother "helped form the Ku Klux Klan in Florida after the Civil War."

The dorm opened 55 years ago under Simkins's name, and the university apparently overlooked his past.

The Daily Texan student newspaper opines:

"William Stewart Simkins was, by all accounts, a deplorable human being. Some people may say he was only playing into the sentiment of the time period in which he lived. Regardless, any person that participates, much less organizes, a group that advocates for the murder of individuals on the basis of race is horrible, no matter what era he or she lived in."

A public forum on the potential name change was held on campus Monday. An advisory committee will forward a recommendation; any name change would require action by university regents.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  July 1, 2010; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Administration , Public policy  | Tags: KKK dorm UT, UT dorm named for Klan leader, University Texas dorm named for Klan leader, William Stewart Simkins, dorm named for KKK leader  
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Comments

The last of the public forums on the Simkins Hall issue took place this past Monday. The committee has handed in its secret recommendation to the president.

For more media and blog coverage of this issue, please see http://simkins.houseofrussell.com

(And for the Byrdies who will soon post here: Unlike Sen. Byrd, Simkins never apologized or repented.)

Posted by: ProfTRussell | July 1, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse


What are they going to call it, the Robert Byrd Center?


Posted by: screwjob16 | July 1, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

screwjob16, have you given up on the idea of America? Is there no room for redemption in your idea of what it means to be American?
Robert Byrd grew, matured, learned, and changed his mind and heart through his long life. This IS the opportunity that America gives to the individual citizen. We can start over. We can admit our failings. We are NOT locked into some kind of class system that prevents us from becoming more compassionately human.
Robert Byrd is not the only American who grew out of his or her inherited racism to become a champion of all. Thousands upon thousands of Americans grew out of the KKK evil, they redeemed themselves.
America, in fact, is all about "redemption."

Posted by: cms1 | July 1, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

America, in fact, is all about "redemption."

Posted by: cms1

------------------------

...but only if you're a Democrat, am I right?

Posted by: blert | July 1, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-24 are also adults. If a person who was in a racist organization, that person can reclaim her or his reputation through years of doing something good and must have condemned the racist organization for which they were part of while working to reclaim their reputation. If William Stewart Simkins didn't condemn the KKK before he died, then the dormitory shouldn't be named after him.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | July 1, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

George Washington kept slaves. His his name now to be taken off every building as well?

Posted by: bk0512 | July 2, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Yet Robert Byrd of WV is considered a good guy by the WP which has praised him for years... Makes you wonder where the Post stands on the KKK members....

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | July 2, 2010 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't be any surprise here. George Littlefield, a rich Texan donated enough money to UT to ensure that it would keep its fine southern and confederate heritage including a big monument to Confederate leaders right on campus. The main inscription reads:

“To the men and women of the Confederacy, who fought with valor and suffered with fortitude that states rights be maintained and who, not dismayed by defeat nor discouraged by misrule, built from the ruins of a devastating war a greater South and to the men and women of the nation who gave of their possessions and of their lives that free government be made secure to the peoples of the earth this memorial is dedicated.”

Even today the Texas School Board is trying to "reduce" the treatment of Jefferson and the Enlightenment no less as influences in the American Revolution.

The Battle of San Jacinto, a skirmish in most wars sports a monument larger that the Washington monument--more Texas.

I think a center for special studies of the KKK should be endowed at Austin and some favorite son like Karl Rove should run it as he nears retirement age.

How about the Business School being name after former Corpus Christi car dealer Billy Joe "Red" McCombs who is busy right now trying to muck up the environment in Colorado.

Leave the dorm name. To try to wash the racist stain out of the University of Texas would take more detergent than is being used to clean up the Gulf Oil spill. Some trash you just can't clean up.

Posted by: explorers100 | July 2, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse

America, in fact, is all about "redemption."

Posted by: cms1
------------------------

...but only if you're a Democrat, am I right?

Posted by: blert

------------------------

No. Not at all. That's the whole point of the country. Anyone can become anything they want to become, regardless of their political beliefs, religion, or socioeconomic status at birth.

Posted by: dibee | July 2, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

America, in fact, is all about "redemption."

Posted by: cms1

------------------------

...but only if you're a Democrat, am I right?

Posted by: blert
-----------------------------
No Republicans can do it as well, but I don't think its ever been done. I have yet to see one of them set their bible aside and say "Hey, this really should be a 100% secular country, and the corporations needs to be harshly dealt with".

Posted by: schnauzer2 | July 2, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Not to mention "Freedom means freedom, even if i disagree with your choices of how you use that freedom". If the republicans ever put that on the podium i think the world may explode.

Posted by: schnauzer2 | July 2, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

George Washington kept slaves. His his name now to be taken off every building as well?

Posted by: bk0512 | July 2, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

###########################################

Washington never joined an organization whose aim was to intimidate and kill minorities.

Posted by: maggots | July 2, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Uh, just wondering when we're going to rename another Klan leader's buildings, bridges, roads, etc.

In 1941 Byrd joined the Ku Klux Klan, recruiting 150 members and being elected their top officer, advancing to the roles of Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops.

In 1944 Byrd refused to join the military because he might have to serve alongside “race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds,” according to a letter Byrd wrote to Sen. Theodore Bilbo at the height of World War II.

He spoke of the “white n*gger,” an early 20th-century anachronism that Byrd employed not once, but twice during an interview with Tony Snow in 2001.

He filibustered against the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Simkins, of course, predated Byrd by a century (August 25, 1842–February 27, 1929) and was certainly a product of his time - unlike Byrd who was not. Unless you compare Byrd's Klan association with Obama and "Rev." Wright's church.

So when do West Virginians start erasing Byrd's name from all those pork-barrel buildings etc.? Or does renaming not apply to Democrats?

Posted by: segeny | July 2, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

George Washington kept slaves. His his name now to be taken off every building as well?

Posted by: bk0512 | July 2, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

###########################################

Washington never joined an organization whose aim was to intimidate and kill minorities.
##########################################

Right -- because everyone knows that keeping and selling slaves is so much better than the KKK.

Posted by: bk0512 | July 2, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

To learn about Simkins's Klan activity in his own words, see: http://tinyurl.com/24qp3rl

Posted by: ProfTRussell | July 2, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Yes. They should rename the building the Senator Robert Byrd Memorial Hall - Oh, wait - no, we can't because HE was a KKK member, too.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | July 2, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"Right -- because everyone knows that keeping and selling slaves is so much better than the KKK."

Um, at least slavery was legal at the time. It may be deplorable, but it was legal and socially accepted. Whereas, the murder and intimidation of the Klan were illegal and driven by hate. Washington may have been a flawed human being, but there is a difference between being imperfect and being evil.

Posted by: writinron | July 2, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

UT's student newspaper said it right.

Posted by: Capsheaf | July 2, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

fr segeny:

>...In 1941 Byrd joined the Ku Klux Klan, recruiting 150 members and being elected their top officer, advancing to the roles of Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops....<

The late Senator Byrd also REGRETTED joining the kkk, and publicly renounced them.

Posted by: Alex511 | July 2, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

As regards the dorm named for Professor William S. Simkins, UT has to decide which direction it wants to go. It can change the name and move forward or it can continue to go South and be associated with second tier southern racist universities. Go South or go forward? To me it's a no-brainer.

Here is a link showing lynchings, if your stomach can take it. http://www.americanlynching.com/photos-old.htm. See especially the Kirven, Texas burnings that occurred during Simkins’ tenure as professor, as did many other burnings and lynchings in Texas. Was Simkins’ promotion of the Klan to his students and others partly responsible for this reprehensible behavior? Quite possibly. Did Simkins know this behavior was occurring? Almost certainly. Did he speak out against it? No. In fact he continued to condone the behavior by teaching, promoting and talking about the Klan.
Jasper, and later Marshall, Texas also come to mind. Were those incidents influenced by Simkins and his ilk? Quite possibly.
The history and reputation of The University is that of a Deep South, sometimes racist institution. This is the opportunity to begin to walk away from that legacy. It’s a pivotal time. Are the Regents and President Powers wise enough to see it?

Posted by: BillWilson2 | July 3, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@bk0512:

Sorry to see you are unable to see the difference between participating in an organization that was actively involved in murdering individuals and the notion of equity (of races) on moral ground. Or you knew the difference but try to twist it for an implausible purpose. Being biased is inevitable (who's perfect?) but taking actions against any particular race is an evidence of loss of soul.

Posted by: knowledgenotebook | July 4, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The University of Texas can't seem to see the forest for the trees. This is a no-brainer but the University is still having a tough time with integration. This tax-payer supported university has a low rate of black students but eagerly reach out to Hispanic, Asian and Indian students. UT wants so much to be a top notch university but can't seem to get out of its' own way. UT can't seem to attract black students and yet they don't seem to understand why. With the university stumbling on basic issues such as this, it's no wonder the university will continue to be at the bottom of list for highly motived and highly qualified black students. History is taught such that similar mistakes are not made again. To continue to name a dorm after a KKK klansman says the university has not learned it's lesson. Yes, we are applying today's standards against those of the past because we are a smarter people today, having learned from the ugly mistakes of the past. Looks like this university has not learned yet.

Posted by: cricket35 | July 5, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

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