TROY, Ala. (WSFA) - For decades the name of a former Alabama governor and Ku Klux Klan member fronted one of the main buildings on the Troy University campus, but not anymore.
Today, Alabama native John Lewis' spirit lives on at the university where his name replaces that of Bibb Graves, governor from 1927-1931 and again from 1935-1939.
Lewis died in mid-July of cancer at the age of 80. While he represented Georgia’s District 5 seat in Congress for more than 30 years, he was a Troy native. The university presented him an honorary degree in 1989 and renamed its Black History Month conference the John Lewis Annual Leadership Conference following his death.
University officials held a formal ceremony Friday to rename Bibb Graves Hall to the John Robert Lewis Hall. The Troy University Board of Trustees announced the change back in the summer.
“John was a true American patriot,” said Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-District 2, speaking at Friday’s renaming event.
“If anyone had a reason to hate, hate from being beaten in Selma, the hate for not being admitted to Troy State College, it was John Lewis. But he didn’t," said board member Lamar Higgins.
“This is one we believed, we did not believe represented, Troy University. We’re loving to all people, so we were in the process of looking for a new name and one the students had brought up," said Troy University SGA President Nicole Jayjohn. “I believe there was even a petition to renaming it to John Robert Lewis Hall.”
“But this building, in and of itself, I think reflects the hope for the future for all of us, not just our students, so it’s a proud occasion and we’re all deeply grateful," said Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins.