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.
The Troy University Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to rename historic Bibb Graves Hall — currently named for a former governor who had ties to the Ku Klux Klan— in honor of Lewis.
The university said the name change is effective immediately and the building will now bear the name John Robert Lewis Hall.
“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,” Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr., said in a statement on the university’s website.
“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.”
David Bibb Graves served two terms as Alabama governor in the 1920s and 1930s. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Graves was the was Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan when he took office.
“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,” Hawkins added.
Troy University previously honored Lewis with 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.