BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The LSU Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution Friday to strip Troy H. Middleton’s name from the university’s library.
Middleton opposed integration while serving as university president from 1951 to 1962. In a recently-unearthed letter to another university’s president, he indicated he’d prevent black students from mingling with white students.
“LSU students shouldn’t be asked to study in a library bearing the name of someone who didn’t want them to be LSU students,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told the board during its online meeting Friday, June 19.
“Even if this is not the message that was intended, it is the message being received,” Edwards continued. “We know that because we’ve listened and we have heard. We cannot change the past, but neither should we live in it.”
Interim President Tom Galligan met with black student leaders following weeks of nationwide demonstrations in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd to discuss ideas and “concrete steps to make real change at LSU,” he tweeted.
One of the steps black student leaders proposed was removing Middleton’s name from the library.
Middleton played a significant role in ending World War 2 as corps commander for the U.S. Army in Europe. After the war, he was a key advocate for higher education in Louisiana and helped convince state leaders to build a library at the Baton Rouge campus instead of renovating athletic facilities.
The Middleton family released a statement to The Advocate “expressly and unequivocally denouncing the university’s dishonorable plan,” calling Middleton a hero and an icon. They encouraged the board to “make a principled stand against erasure of this great state’s history.”
The family met with the board of supervisors prior to the vote.
“To pull out one or two comments from the 1950′s or 1960′s does not tell the story of Troy Middleton,” Woody Jenkins, a friend to Middleton and a former republican state lawmaker, told the board. “I don’t think any student should be ashamed of Troy Middleton, really, when you take the whole context of his career.”
Gov. John McKeithen eventually appointed Middleton to serve as head of a committee on racial reconciliation after the civil rights movement.
But board members and the governor argued that students, especially African-American, are not reminded of his military service or academic accomplishments as they study in the library.
“It was not a blip in his lifespan, it was a decade in his life,” supervisor Jimmie Woods, who is black, said. “Ten years, 3,650 days, 87,600 hours, 5,000,256 minutes. For 5,000,256 minutes, he was a segregationist, which means in plain and simple terms he was a racist.”
“Middleton’s works during those 5 million minutes when he was president are speaking loudly to me, our ancestors, and the next generation,” Woods added.
The boards will meet on June 19. A yes or no vote is expected.
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