Campus hall named after racist needs to change, Winthrop students say
During a rally Sunday at Clemson University, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said the truth should be known about the white supremacist actions and views of Ben Tillman, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. senator who is the namesake of Tillman Hall.
O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas who was visiting Clemson for the first time, said he learned that Tillman “worked with white nationalist terrorist organizations that murdered African Americans in this state.”
He praised Clemson students for calling for Tillman Hall to be renamed.
The university’s board of trustees has said that it can’t be done because of the state’s Heritage Act, which would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the South Carolina General Assembly to change the building’s name.
The university did place signs in front of Tillman Hall and 10 other historic buildings last year to give a fuller picture of the school’s history. The sign in front of Tillman Hall notes that it was built by a “predominantly African American convict labor crew.”
The back of the sign reads: “Tillman played a important role in Clemson’s founding, but his racist views were considered extreme even in his time. The Board of Trustees disavowed those views in a 2015 resolution.”
Speaking to the media after the rally, O’Rourke said information detailing Tillman’s racist views should be placed either at the building bearing his name on campus or near his statute outside the State House in Columbia.
“Then either that hall is renamed and that statue is taken down out of shame when everyone understands the story, or it is maintained at least we have the full context and history.”
Here are other key takeaways from Sunday’s rally:
More than 500 attend Beto O’Rourke rally at Clemson
Sunday’s rally was held on a basketball court that was covered with sheeting. Wearing a Clemson Tigers cap, O’Rourke stood on a small elevated stage surrounded by students.
The event marked the end of a three-day swing through South Carolina for O’Rourke that included stops in Bluffton, Ladson, Charleston, Denmark and Columbia. While in Charleston, O’Rourke took part in a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of a hospital strike involving more than 400 black employees.
This weekend marked the second time that O’Rourke has come to South Carolina since announcing his candidacy last month for the Democratic presidential nomination.
His visit to Clemson came two days after another Democratic White House hopeful, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, campaigned in Greenville.
Two more Democratic presidential candidates are headed to the Upstate this week. On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will tour solar facilities at Furman University and then take part in a town hall at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is expected to take part in a town hall gathering in Spartanburg on Thursday.
South Carolina will be the first Southern state to hold a Democratic presidential primary next February.
Beto O’Rourke discusses immigration, education, health care, global warming
O’Rourke was thrust in the national spotlight last year when he narrowly lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a closely watched race.
He discussed a range of issues at Sunday’s rally, starting with criticism of President Donald Trump’s attempts to stem illegal immigration along the nation’s border with Mexico.
O’Rourke said Trump’s proposed border wall is a “solution in search of a problem” that is not needed.
He also said “world-class education” must become a national priority and called for a new Voting Rights Act that would include automatic registration for voters when they turn 18.
O’Rourke said he supports “guaranteed high-quality health care.”
He also said Charleston and New York City could be submerged by rising oceans in a “century if not decades” unless the U.S. takes meaningful actions to combat global warming in the next 10 years.
Beto O’Rourke has warm words for Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, became the 18th Democrat in the 2020 presidential race when he officially announced his candidacy Sunday afternoon. His announcement came while O’Rourke was speaking at Clemson.
“Glad that Mayor Pete is in the race,” O’Rourke told reporters after his rally. “I think he’s already a terrific candidate (who) would make a great president.”
O’Rourke said he and the other Democrats in the race “will all respect the will of the voters come summer 2020. We’re going to get behind the same nominee, whoever she or he may be, (and) ensure they’re successful in defeating Donald Trump.”