The Bernardo de Gálvez Building at The University of Alabama

Posted on March 16, 2022


A few years ago, we entered a renaming spree at the University of Alabama. I noticed it when someone suggested we needed to dump the name of Morgan Hall named after John Tyler Morgan. Morgan was an old white racist, and it was a disgrace to have a building named after him, so went the thinking of those running the University at the time.

I wrote an Op Ed at the time for the Tuscaloosa News, “Rather than erase the past, learn from it,” expressing an opposing point of view. Here are some excerpts from that piece.

Among the changes sought by the “We Are Done” group “is the removal of the names of white supremacists, Klansmen, Confederate generals, and eugenicists from the classroom buildings or the installation of markers to indicate their history of racism.”

“Let me very quietly suggest that if the above criterion is followed—such as the removal of the Morgan portrait from Morgan Hall which is offensive to some—then just about everybody whose name is associated with the University in this time period has to be removed for segregation was a part of the culture of the times.”

“Purging history to suit your contemporary politics can be fun. The Germans would do well with getting rid of Hitler from their history. He really was offensive!”

“Pretty soon we will have a history that suits the offended ones. It may be a far stretch from what really happened, but it tends to suit those who want to have things their way.”

“This is happening in a place, the University, where we are supposedly devoted to investigating and studying with an open, sound, and honest mind, free of politics and inane close-minded ideologies. Renaming sounds more like a modern Marxist or Jihadist regime to me.”

“It’s my way or the highway.”

“We have sent enough people packing on the highway in the history of this country, including blacks, Jews, Catholics, Chinese and just about every racial and ethnic type who was new to the country at one time or another.”

“Why not, for a change, embrace not erase our past? Learn from it. Taking down a photograph or painting is child’s play, invoking a child’s sense of right or wrong. Grow up and see the world through the eyes and mind God gave all of us. Look for the truth, and, as they swear in court, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UA—and, really, across the country–leads the pack in promoting these ends. And today the Board of Trustees has taken the low road of systemic racism and historical revisionism with respect to Graves Hall.

In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, let me help. I propose UA move with an even broader agenda in the renaming business.

I think we are grossly neglecting, maybe from racist, ethnic prejudices, a minority who need to be recognized with a name for a new building at UA. It should be named after General Bernardo de Gálvez, a hero in the American Revolution who seized Pensacola, Mobile, Baton Rouge and helped oust the British from the Gulf coast.

You may think it was just Anglo Americans—George Washington and the Continental Army for example–who fought to establish our Independence and so usher in the new nation, but it was not only Spanish ships and guns commanded by Galvez along the Gulf coast but also French arms, ships, sailors, and men at the famous Battle of Yorktown for example who helped defeat the British.

We need to celebrate and remember these Spanish sailors and soldiers as well, the predecessors of thousands and later millions of Hispanics in the making of this great nation. You may think of the Hispanic population in Alabama today as merely agricultural workers, chicken pluckers in the poultry plants, hot Latinas in the entertainment industry, and Mexican restaurant owners, but they are an immensely diverse, hardworking thread in the making of the great American tapestry. We have over 2000 Hispanics enrolled at UA.

We could rename a building—the current fashion to satisfy this gap in our coverage of important people and events in our history. The Rose-Gálvez Administration Building would be nice. Perhaps build a new ROTC building to house our Air Force and Army ROTC programs, named after a distinguished general from the American Revolution, Gálvez of course.

The Hispanic minority is the fastest growing in the U. S. and needs to have a physical, nomenclature presence at UA for the sake of true diversity and inclusion. I’ll be glad to write the plaque and assist in the renaming ceremony or shovel a bit of dirt at the groundbreaking of the new ROTC Center built over in the Bryce Hospital section of the University.

We can invite the Spanish Ambassador to the U. S. and other dignitaries to a fiesta on the Quadrangle catered by one of our great Mexican restaurants. ¡Viva el General! ¡Viva el Rey! ¡Viva la Revolución!

Lawrence A. Clayton Reichel (Chilean-American)

Published as “A general idea for renaming buildings at the University of Alabama,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday February 12 2022.