Mary Washington renames academic hall for civil rights leader James Farmer
Farmer taught at the university before his death in 1999
The University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors voted Friday to change the name of an academic building to James Farmer Hall, after James L. Farmer Jr., the civil rights activist who planned the first Freedom Riders protest in 1961 through the South, desegregating buses and encountering violence.
Farmer, a native of Texas who lived in Spotsylvania County in his final years, taught a civil rights class at the university in the 1980s and ’90s.
The building was previously called Trinkle Hall, after former Virginia Gov. Elbert Trinkle, who promoted eugenics and segregation legislation during his 1920s tenure. Earlier in the year, UMW appointed a naming committee to come up with a group of new names for the building, which houses classics, philosophy, math, computer sciences, religion and education classes.
“I commend the action of the board today,” Rector Heather Crislip said in a statement. “We are talking about one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings on campus, and its name should reflect our community and our values.”
Farmer, who died at age 79 in 1999, already had been honored with a bronze bust outside the hall and is remembered fondly for his classes, which often took the form of stories about his personal history in the nation’s civil rights struggle, beginning in the 1940s, when Farmer formed the Congress of Racial Equality.
He is considered one of the “Big Six” Black civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, with whom Farmer organized the 1963 March on Washington. In 1998, Farmer was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom.