A building at Troy University in Alabama, once named after a former governor with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, has been renamed in honor of late congressman John Lewis.
CNN reports the university’s board of trustees voted unanimously to change the name of Bibb Graves Hall to John Robert Lewis Hall, effective immediately. Graves was the governor of Alabama from 1927 to 1931 and served as grand cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan during that same time period. In 1989, the university granted Lewis an honorary doctorate and, in 2006, he received the university’s literary Hall-Waters Prize for his memoir “Walking with the Wind.”
“We are honored that Troy University Board of Trustees and Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. saw it fit to rename one of its signature buildings John Robert Lewis Hall,” the Lewis family said in a statement. “We are so proud of this distinction.”
Lewis was the last of the “Big Six,” civil rights leaders and was instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. Since 1987 he served as the representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district and was often cited as the “conscience of Congress.” He died on July 17 at 80, after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was the first Black lawmaker to be laid to rest at the US Capitol Rotunda, according to CNN.
“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 Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr.
“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 University is currently in the planning process for a ceremony to formally dedicate John Robert Lewis Hall.