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Why not honor two great Oklahomans instead of one

The campaign to rename Murray Hall in honor of civil rights crusader Clara Luper is gaining momentum.

 

I've met only one person against renaming the building, and his reasons surprised me. Some faculty members discussed whether they wanted to come out in favor of the renaming. One faculty member said such an action would be divisive and make OSU faculty appear estranged from the state of Oklahoma.

 

I was surprised to hear that, because I didn't think "Alfalfa Bill" Murray still had admirers who would take the removal of his name from a campus building as a personal slight.

 

Murray was an appalling bigot. Besides his well-known hatred of non-whites, Murray also had a plan (which Bob Darcy detailed in a previous column) to deal with what he and other bigots perceived as "the Jewish problem" in this country.

 

Murray's plan was to remove all Jews from the U.S., except those who were already American citizens before 1900, and use the island of Madagascar as a place to resettle the deported Jews.

 

This gives Murray too much in common with Adolf Hitler to deserve special recognition by OSU. Why should anybody identify with Murray so closely as to take offense at the removal of his name from a building?

 

Surely most people realize the members of the OSU community who want to remove Murray's name from the building simply want to emphasize what's best about Oklahoma by bestowing upon this building the name of an Oklahoman of whom we can truly be proud.

 

There is a pleasing poetic justice in removing the name of a racist from a building and replacing his name with the name of a crusader against racism.

 

It doesn't bother me that Luper had no particular connection with OSU. Is there any way in which an African-American woman of her generation could have done so? Wasn't OSU still discriminatory in its hiring and student admissions policies when Luper was young?

 

But just in case that sways some people, consider this: because Murray Hall consists of two buildings connected by a walkway, let's rename one of the buildings after Luper and the other after one of Oklahoma's really good past governors.

 

My nominee is Henry Bellmon. He is one 20th-century Republican whom I as a non-Republican can admire, and he has also won the admiration of many people of different political affiliations.

 

The Kennedy Library Web site states Governor Bellmon was given its Profiles in Courage award because "his consistent votes as a U.S. senator for civil rights legislation and against popular 'anti-busing' proposals in the early 1970s caused an uproar among members of his own party."

 

The only people who might oppose naming a building in his honor would be racists and enemies of education. I cannot think of any past governor of Oklahoma with an equally outstanding record of fighting racism. The fact Bellmon also fought for education reform, while Luper is herself an educator, makes it doubly appropriate to name university buildings in their honor.

 

Bellmon was governor when I moved to Oklahoma in 1987. I didn't know his Senate record, but other things about Bellmon impressed me favorably.

 

When I was deeply dissatisfied with Oklahoma leaders who foolishly kicked up a completely unjustified fuss about the showing of Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ" on OSU's campus, Governor Bellmon just stated, calmly and rationally, that he didn't see why the OSU students shouldn't screen any film they wanted to.

 

Even without the other impressive facts I since have learned about Governor Bellmon, that alone would make him stand head and shoulders above other politicians of his era. He is the anti-Murray - a governor who truly deserves to have a building named in his honor, alongside the great Clara Luper.