On Saturday, June 13, two groups gathered in Academic Plaza to express their opinions on the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross.

After the recent petitions for and against the removal of the statue on campus, the online debates about what should be done inspired a dual protest. A crowd of current and former students in favor of keeping the statue listened to a speech from Keith Hazelwood, Class of 1974, about Ross’ contributions to A&M and Texas. Before meeting the 'Save Sully' supporters, those in favor of removing the statue met in front of Cushing Library to share their opinions before marching to Academic Plaza.

Blinn biomedical engineering freshman Alaska Greene attended the protest and said the contributions Ross made to Texas A&M do not erase his wrongdoings.

“There are plenty of people who made contributions, but also did bad things, but we don’t have statues of them up,” Greene said. “It’s not right to honor someone who did the things he did, even if he made some kind of contribution.”

Hazelwood said people should start recognizing Ross for the good he did for the university and that he should be credited for its success, regardless of his ties to the Confederacy.

"When they say Lawrence Sullivan Ross is a traitor, it's like telling a Black man that his dad was a — you know what," Hazelwood said.

Before the anti-Sully protesters arrived and Hazelwood was still speaking, one individual passed by carrying a sign that read 'Sully was a white supremacist.' Hazelwood denounced the content of the sign.

"Now these dumb suckers over here are saying he was a racist because he didn't integrate everything in 1885," Hazelwood said. "I'm telling you now, I know this for a fact, because if he tried in 1885 he probably would have been killed."

Tammy Whisenant, Class of 2009, said she thinks the anti-Sully protesters don’t know enough about him, and that they should learn more before wanting to remove the statue.

“I understand the friction that it appears to cause for people who are not fully educated about what he really stood for,” Whisenont said. “I respect their opinions, but this is not that. They just need a little education so we can show them this man was actually pretty outstanding.”

Computer engineering sophomore Ian Beckett said he supports keeping the statue because he believes looking at a historical figure in today’s context is not realistic.

“I think we should respect those who have gone before us and established the institutions that we celebrate today,” Beckett said. “We shouldn’t judge people by the standards of today. Sully, I think, is a great man who did a lot for the university and the state of Texas.”

At the gathering in front of Cushing Library, A&M anthropology professor Filipe Castro said Ross may be an important figure in the history of Texas A&M, but he should not be glorified in the form of a statue.

“Why do we want to keep a statue that stands for racism and exclusion and hatred? Statues are just artifacts, they are not history,” Castro said. “History is in the library. If you really want to know the history of the Confederacy, go to the library. There is no censorship in the United States. All the opinions are going to be there, accessible to everybody.”

Junior Tiffany Morrow spoke to the anti-Sully protesters and said the presence of the Sully statue itself is wrong, because she feels it promotes oppression, and it idolizes him without giving his full backstory.

“We demonstrate a fundamental disrespect for our Black and Brown students while we encourage them to lay pennies at the feet of a man who would have been disgusted by the knowledge that they were permitted to enroll at this school,” Morrow said.

Morrow said students should not wait for others to act for our causes, but rather participate in uncomfortable conversations regarding racial injustice that are occurring in society today.

“I am deeply grateful for the contributions Sul Ross made to this university,” Morrow said. “I am glad that it generated some of the traditions that we love, and I am just as grateful, if not more so, for the people who have come behind him to ensure the university we know today is not the one he intended to leave us.”

Performance studies junior Joshua Carley said, given his position as the Gallery Director of the MSC Visual Arts Committee, he understands the importance of preserving history. However, he also said he thinks the statue should be relocated.

“It should be moved to Cushing Library as a way to showcase that the glorification of this man who makes a large demographic of students uncomfortable is not accepted, but should be remembered for who he was and his contributions to this university, positive and negative,” Carley said.

After the organizers spoke, the group marched to Academic Plaza where sections of the plaza were cordoned off with two yellow ropes, designating the center walkway as off-limits to both groups. However, not long after arriving, several anti-Sully protesters crossed one of the ropes and entered the center of the plaza. After this, a Sully supporter shouted 'Go home,' to which another protester replied 'We are home.'

Anthropology associate professor Michael Alvard was arrested by University Police for crossing the rope boundary and refusing to return the designated areas. Alvard was charged with criminal trespassing and given a $2,000 bond, according to the Brazos County Sheriff Office Jail. According to the Young Democratic Socialists of America at Texas A&M’s Facebook, donors amassed $3,000 to cover the bail costs for Alvard.

After his arrest, many more anti-Sully protesters crossed the rope and began to speak directly with their opposers. The groups quietly discussed their stances, but returned to chanting loudly shortly after.

Hugh Sterns, Class of 1982, said he has never approved of the statue, and was glad to see the group of anti-Sully protesters and the diversity among them.

“We see clearly, the wave of the future and the tendency of A&M to always try to hold on to the past,” Sterns said. “I’m not even opposed to holding onto certain elements of the past, but when a Black or Brown student walks across the A&M campus and sees this Confederate general that’s being venerated; it sends a message that’s just terrible. We’ve got a long, brutal history of racism in this country, and the way we overcome it is by taking down it’s legacy.”

(4) comments

Rick Cromack 97

...I don't know why I'd expect better from The Batt, but in the paragraph reading:

"...not long after arriving, several anti-Sully protesters crossed one of the ropes and entered the center of the plaza. After this, a Sully supporter shouted 'Go home,' to which another protester replied 'We are home.'"

...Y'all got it wrong. It was one of the female leaders of the "Cancel Sully" protest who yelled at the PRO-Sully rally faithful to "Go home!". (Later, she repeated her exhortation with a slight but provocative modification: "Racists, go home!"

How do I know that? Because I'm the guy who yelled back, "We ARE home!" :)

coocoomamajuju

To the point that history exists in the library, it doesn't, history exists in the past. The resources in the library are artifacts of history. Like artifacts in a museum, a library is a museum of literature. Demolishing statues is like burning books. If you happened across a copy of Gone with the Wind on campus, you should take it to the library, not destroy it. A segment of the Berlin Wall as part of a monument is displayed at the George Bush Library. There is a time and a place for everything, Sully's place at this time is the library.

Moving the statue to the library is a beautiful compromising solution.

Rick Cromack 97

Not to stir the hornet's nest by promoting The Batt's putative competition, but: Let's hear the opposing view. This is from John A. Adams' special report to The Bryan-College Station Eagle, published today and titled: "Sul Ross promoted education and rights for African Americans"

For the past few days I have noted the stories and conversation flying around about Sul Ross. True to form, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation and hype about Texas A&M President Ross. His life and career is one of the most researched and chronicled of Texans prior to 1900.

I have spent more than 40 years reviewing dozens of newspapers, archival documents and publications on his life. Ross was an honorable man. However, there were opinions about him when he was alive and there have been barrels of ink used since 1900 to tell his story — some of which, to no one’s surprise — have been politically motivated and revisionist in nature.

Ross was a household name by the time he was 19. Working on the Brazos Reservation near Graham with his father Shapley Ross, he was enlisted in the rangers to help stem the tide of hostile Indians and disruptive white trouble makers, who attacked both new settlers in the region as well as friendly Indians on the reservation. There were those who encroached on Indian lands and efforts were made to stop them. The late 1850s was a very unsettled and violent period on the western frontier of Texas.

Ross did indeed serve in the Confederate army, as did thousands of Texans including the entire 1883 inaugural faculty at The University of Texas. He returned home to Waco and received a full presidential pardon. He was one of the most vocal supporters of local education for all. He worked with a number of African-American and Indian families as the region struggled to recover. Known for his impartial fairness he was recruited to run for sheriff and arrested a growing gang of white-criminal squatters who preyed on people across East Texas. He abhorred mob violence and was swift to advocate harsh punishment for violators. To emphasis law and order he was the founder and catalyst in 1874 for the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, which still functions today.

His only other known memberships was as a Mason (the College Station lodge is named in his honor) and a supporter of a veterans group that raised funding and assistance for the widowed and orphaned families.

As a state senator, he championed education, frontier improvements and agricultural affairs. In 1886 he was elected governor by one of the largest percentage vote totals of any governor in Texas. A fiscal conservative, he balanced the state budget yet insisted that education at all levels be funded. Texas A&M and Prairie View Normal College would not be here today if it was not for Sul Ross. When opponents in Austin attacked, he went directly to the Legislature to prevent it from cutting off funding to both schools.

Ross continued to lead the efforts to expand African-American rural schools when radical Democrats wanted to de-fund support of local black education and he halted numerous attempts to attack the funding for Prairie View, fighting and demanding the Legislature to do the right thing.

He won — and provided additional funding and jobs after establishing one of the first agricultural experiment stations at an African-American college in the United States.

When African-American Sen. William Holland proposed the hospital for the “Deaf, Dumb and Blind Colored Institute” (today MHMR), Ross supported the full funding. Against massive opposition from the radical white Democrats, he appointed Holland, a Union Army war veteran, as its first director. When asked why, Ross simply noted, “He was the best man for the job.”

Concerned with the Texas criminal process, he insisted on a review and upon receiving the report he realized the inequity of justice and pardoned more African Americans than all the previous governors combined.

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In 1890, at a time when he could have pursued other elected office or returned to his farm near Waco, he was offered the presidency of the A&M College of Texas. The school was struggling to jell into an institution, having faced low budgets, faculty turnover, poor water, and limited housing for students. There were no traditions as we know them today and a bleak undeveloped campus. Known statewide and very popular, it was said after Ross arrived, parents sent their sons not to A&M but “to Sul Ross.”

And it was not only sons who attended A&M, Ross routinely enrolled from seven to nine girls each year, known as “special students” (some wore cadet uniforms), and the credits they earned were transferable to other colleges. Prior to his death in early 1898, Ross proposed a school for girls to be co-located with A&M, the plan was supported by the Former Students (Cadets) Association and the local Bryan merchants who quickly were excited by the potential benefits to the local economy.

Ross increased the age to enroll at A&M, required entrance exams and instilled an atmosphere and esprit de corps that rightly gives him claim as the founder of A&M traditions — with the advent in the 1890s of football, the Aggie Band, the Aggie ring, the Battalion newspaper, corps trips, march to the Brazos, and much more that sealed the identity and image of what was to be known a few years later as the Fightin’ Texas Aggies and Aggieland.

One of his greatest accomplishments was the support of Prairie View A&M. While opponents in Austin yearly worked to kill funding, Ross made sure the only public school of high education for African Americans would grow and prosper. Ross a hired close personal friend, Professor Edward L. Blackshear, the former director of African=American schools in Austin when he was governor in the late 1880s, to become the ‘principal’ (president) of Prairie View.

Blackshear, the most prominent black educator and leader in Texas, testified to the “nobility of his character and his genuine support of education for colored youths.”

In addition to Ross and his staff spending a great deal of time at Prairie View, including holding periodic board meetings in Hempstead, Ross hosted Blackshear, his staff and students both at his residence on the A&M campus but also at his home in Waco. To encourage the growth of black education, he arranged special reduced train rates for the Black Baptist State Association to hold its annual meetings in Bryan, giving a chance for him and Blackshear to urge the clergy to promote education back home in their congregations.

Ross instilled a source of excellence and pride in higher education and espoused transcendent values of equality and justice for all in Texas. It is for this reason that to honor Ross and his legacy of selfless service as governor and his years of dedication to education for all Texans, the state of Texas and the Legislature, not some outside organization, approved funding for an official State of Texas statue in 1919, conspicuous in civilian dress, to honor President Sul Ross.

And thus, it is the totality of the man’s life for which the statue stands.

John A. Adams Jr. ‘73, is a historian and author of We Are the Aggies, Softly Call the Muster and Keepers of the Spirit

coocoomamajuju

Wow, thank you so much for sharing. I don't see this as stirring the nest at all. This historical perspective is missing from common knowledge. Knowing this now, I see Sul Ross as a patron saint of the Spirit of Aggieland. He lives on regardless of the state of the physical bronze figure.

Given the additional information I no longer see my previously proposed compromising solution as ideal, but I have little sense of a resolving measure. I know we likely won't come to the solution here today, but Rick, what do you think could bring peace to Aggieland on this issue?

Would everyone embrace the commemoration in its current form and location if they knew the truth of his life?

It does stand with only a name, leaving the purpose up to interpretation. Would a placard emphasizing the reason for his commemoration calm the discontent?

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