STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State University’s governing board plans to vote Friday to remove the name Murray from a building at the school’s Stillwater campus, ending its affiliation with a governor who advocated for segregation and pushed to advance Jim Crow laws, officials said.
University President Burns Hargis sent a letter to the board of regents on Wednesday recommending that the school rename the building that pays homage to Oklahoma’s ninth governor, William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray.
The vote will likely be a formality as the regents chairman, Tucker Link, joined Hargis in condemning the “Murray Hall” name. Link said Murray’s racist ideology was a reflection of the time period.
“The history associated with this building’s namesake has hurt many and is not consistent with our values of equality and justice for all,” Link said Wednesday in a statement.
Murray was a Democrat and activist in the Farmers’ Alliance deemed a progressive when he served as the state’s governor from 1931 to 1935. He planted crops at the governor’s mansion to feed the hungry, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. During a territorial quarrel with Texas, Murray dispatched the National Guard to open toll-free bridges across the Red River.
Before that, Murray served as president of the Oklahoma statehood convention in 1906, where he authored major sections of the state constitution. He later served as speaker of the House in the state’s first Legislature, where he introduced a bill for a vote that included segregating all public transportation.
Hargis said the name removal process started last fall and continued with a resolution this spring from the Student Government Association.
“I appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the many on our campus who have come forward in support of the name removal, including students, faculty, staff and alumni groups and the more than 5,000 individuals who have signed a Change.org petition regarding the building’s name,” Hargis said. “I am confident in the Regents and trust the considerate treatment they will demonstrate as they address this issue at Friday’s meeting.”
The vote comes after a controversy involving the school’s football team. Running back Chuba Hubbard, who is black, suggested Monday that he may boycott the program after head coach Mike Gundy was photographed wearing a T-shirt promoting One America News Network, a cable channel and website that has been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and praised by President Donald Trump. Gundy, who is white, apologized to his team on Tuesday.