TROY, Ala. (WSFA) - Troy University has approved the renaming of one of the signature buildings on its main campus to honor the memory of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
University leaders announced the renaming Wednesday morning of Bibb Graves Hall for Lewis, a longtime Georgia Democratic congressman and Troy native who died on July 17.
Graves, Alabama’s 38th governor during the 1920s and 30s, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan during the South’s Jim Crow Era. Multiple school buildings across the state, as well as a bridge, have been named for him over the years.
Troy University was the site of the first of multiple memorials for Lewis following his death. It’s also among several Alabama colleges that have brought under closer inspection the names etched into their buildings in the wake of recent racial tension.
Lewis, in addition to being a political leader, was a Civil Rights icon. He was among those beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 while marching for the right to vote. It was a day that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
“John Lewis is a towering figure in American history, whose leadership and advocacy for non-violent change have left a lasting legacy for us all,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “Although Rep. Lewis once sought admission to then Troy State College as a young man and was sadly ignored, I am pleased to say that he became a friend to the University. He visited our campuses several times and was a profound influence on many of us. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for choosing to honor this Pike County native with this name change.”
The Troy University Board of Trustees voted unanimously on the resolution to go ahead with the removal of Graves’ name and to rename it John Robert Lewis Hall. The building houses the Sorrell College of Business.
The decision followed the creation of an ad hoc committee that was established in May to study the names of campus buildings. The board has determined only Graves’ name should be removed at this time.
“I am proud of my fellow Board members for unanimously approving the resolution to honor Congressman John Lewis,” said Gibson Vance, President Pro Tempore of the TROY Board of Trustees. “John Lewis’ character, spirit and selflessness reflect the values we strive to embrace every day at Troy University.”
The naming of a building for Lewis is not the only honor the university has since bestowed upon him. Lewis with presented an honorary doctorate in 1989 and the Hall-Waters Prize in 2006 for his memoir “Walking with the Wind.”
He was also the keynote speaker in 2018 during the annual Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month, which has since been renamed the Congressman John Lewis Leadership Conference.