Posted on February 11, 2021

University of Alabama Removes Name of George Wallace from Campus Building

Michael Nietzel, Forbes, February 6, 2021

The University of Alabama has stripped the name of George C. Wallace from the physical eduction building on its Birmingham campus. The decision came via a unanimous vote on Feb. 5, 2021 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System.

The Board’s action followed a unanimous recommendation by a working group that the Board had charged last summer with reviewing named buildings on all the university’s campuses. As part of that charge, the working group was instructed to be “governed by the institutional best interests of the University of Alabama System, recognizing that although no person is infallible and widespread views commonly change over time, the Board of Trustees must take great care to demonstrate and honor the current values of the University of Alabama System.”

In its release, the university quoted Trustee Judge John England Jr., who represented the working group, as saying, “This is simply the right thing to do. The UA System, the Board of Trustees, our working group and our campuses recognize Governor Wallace’s complex legacy, including the well-known acceptance of his apology by civil rights icon John Lewis. That said, his stated regret late in life did not erase the effects of the divisiveness that continue to haunt the conscience and reputation of our state.”

In addition, England noted the comments of Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the daughter of George Wallace, who had weighed in on the Board’s pending action.

“I, along with my husband Mark, have confidence in the Board’s decision to rename the UAB Physical Education Building,” she said. “It is important to the university to always seek positive and meaningful change for the betterment of students, faculty and the community.”

George Wallace was the 45th governor of Alabama. His extreme segregationist views made him a highly controversial figure, particularly when he campaigned to become president of the United States in 1972. During that campaign, Wallace was shot in an assassination attempt, leaving him paralyzed. He received physical therapy at the Spain Rehabilitation Center, a part of the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Given the close connection of the physical education building with the Spain Rehabilitation Center, and because of Wallace’s “substantial support, interest, and contributions to the University of Alabama in Birmingham,” the Board of Trustees named the physical education building the “George C. Wallace Building” on July 14, 1975.

The Board’s full resolution stripping Wallace’s name from the building cited, in several clauses, his history as a champion of racial segregation and a purveyor of racial animosity, as the primary basis for its decision {snip}