justice, inclusive excellence, service, and community and civic engagement.
Dr. Farmer left a lasting imprint as a key figure in the civil rights movement. His work as a Distinguished Professor of History at UMW personified and carried forth our commitment to be a force for positive change, educating citizens who are ready and eager to address society’s greatest challenges.
UMW Chooses New Name for Building: James Farmer Hall
July 24, 2020 by Anna Billingsley Leave a Comment
The University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors today voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. With this action, the Board memorialized a beloved member of the Mary Washington community who spent most of his career fighting injustices.
University of Mary Washington’s Board of Visitors voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, spent his final years as a professor of history at Mary Washington.
“I commend the action of the Board today,” said Rector Heather Crislip. “We are talking about one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings on campus, and its name should reflect our community and our values.”
The vote to change the name of this building comes at a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Today’s action was precipitated by the exhaustive work of UMW’s Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee. That group was charged in 2017 with evaluating campus art, monuments, and other representations of the University’s history and community in order to ensure that Mary Washington is a welcoming environment for all.
In its subsequent 74-page report presented to the Board in November 2019, the committee’s research revealed that certain works of art and artifacts present a one-dimensional interpretation of UMW’s history. The Board unanimously voted to endorse all 17 of the committee’s recommendations for addressing the issues, with the greatest urgency placed upon identifying a new name for Trinkle Hall, named for a former governor of Virginia who was an active proponent of eugenics and segregation. The board further directed that the new name provide an opportunity for celebration, positive growth, and affirmative identity of the campus.
Earlier this year, a Naming Committee of UMW alumni, faculty, staff, and students solicited nominations for consideration. The committee then narrowed the field by tallying the top five nominees, surveyed the community regarding these nominees, and conveyed the results to President Troy Paino, who voiced his support of the committee’s recommendation to the Board.
With the COVID-19 pandemic curtailing the Board’s activities for several months, this meeting was the first opportunity for the Board to take action.
Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, spent his final years as a professor of history at Mary Washington. Born in 1920 in Marshall, Texas, into a family of educators, the young Farmer “swelled with rebellion” when he personally witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow, igniting his lifelong social justice activism. In 1942, at age 22, Farmer co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which organized several protests of segregated facilities in the 1940s and 1950s.
CORE, under Farmer’s leadership, led the 1961 Freedom Rides into several southern states, including Virginia, in a nonviolent test of Supreme Court rulings that outlawed segregation in interstate transportation and bus terminals. Farmer, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and others organized the 1963 March on Washington.
Facilities Services’ Micky Wallace changes the sign outside Trinkle Hall, renamed today as James Farmer Hall. With the vote by UMW’s BOV to rename the building, a beloved member of the Mary Washington community who spent most of his career fighting injustices is memorialized.
Today’s renaming of UMW’s Trinkle Hall was precipitated by the exhaustive work of the Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee and comes at a pivotal point in the nation’s history. The building is now named James Farmer Hall.
One of UMW’s most adored buildings has a new name. James Farmer co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which led the 1961 Freedom Rides into southern states, including Virginia, to test in nonviolent ways Supreme Court rulings that outlawed segregation in interstate transportation. Scores of Mary Washington alumni have vivid memories of the lessons they learned from the man with a booming voice and a treasure trove of life experiences to share.
In the 1980s, Farmer moved to Spotsylvania County and taught at Mary Washington College. Scores of alumni have vivid and fond memories of the lessons they learned from the man who possessed a booming voice and a treasure trove of life experiences. His teaching tenure was from 1985 to 1998, the same year Farmer was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died in July of 1999.
The University memorialized Dr. Farmer with a bust outside what was formerly known as Trinkle Hall. In commemoration this year of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Mary Washington formed a James Farmer Legacy committee, of which the late Rep. John Lewis served as honorary chair.
The values of Trinkle Hall’s namesake stood in stark contrast to those of James Farmer. Elbert Lee Trinkle served as governor of Virginia from 1922 to 1926. While many of Trinkle’s accomplishments were laudable, he is perhaps best known for championing three controversial pieces of legislation: the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, the Forced Sterilization Act of 1924, and the Racial Segregation Act of 1926.
The former Trinkle Hall, now known as James Farmer Hall, in the center of the Fredericksburg campus, was built in 1940 as the college’s library. When Simpson Library opened in 1989, Trinkle was repurposed into classrooms. Today, the building houses the Department of Classics, Philosophy, Religion; the Department of Mathematics; the Department of Computer Science; and the College of Education’s Fredericksburg campus classes.
In 2020, UMW will celebrate:
- the 100th anniversary of Dr. Farmer’s birth,
- the 30th anniversary of the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and
- the 10th anniversary of our Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
Nationally, 2019 is the centennial of women’s suffrage, and in 2020 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will reach its 30th year.
Much of our work today reflects Dr. Farmer’s legacy and our commitment to social justice, service, and inclusivity. If you have events in these areas, submit them to the Farmer Legacy 2020 calendar.
What would Farmer fight for today?
Visit our call to action page and send us your answer.