Should the Navy rename two buildings named for Confederate leaders?

A panel on memorials at the US Naval Academy will discuss whether two buildings on the campus grounds should remain named after two American naval officers who fought for the Confederacy, the academy’s superintendent said Sept. 11.

Vice Adm. Ted Carter, who briefed the academy’s Board of Visitors about the building names at a meeting at the Library of Congress, said the academy’s Memorial Oversight Committee will be looking into the issue, which has been raised in the aftermath of a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted into deadly violence.

Virginia National Guard Soldiers support Virginia State Police security operations Aug. 12, 2107, in Charlottesville, Virginia. US National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear.

Virginia National Guard Soldiers support Virginia State Police security operations Aug. 12, 2107, in Charlottesville, Virginia. US National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear.

“Where we are right now, there is not a move to make an immediate change, but there is ongoing dialogue,” Carter told The Associated Press in an interview during a break at the meeting.

The superintendent’s residence in Annapolis, Maryland, is named after Franklin Buchanan, the academy’s first superintendent who left to join the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the Civil War. A road by the house, which hosts thousands of visitors every year, also is named after him. Maury Hall is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, a leader in the fields of naval meteorology and navigation. He headed the coast, harbor, and river defenses for the Confederate Navy.

Carter told the Board of Visitors, which includes members of Congress, that the buildings were named after the two men because of their links to Navy history and their accomplishments, separate from their service in the Confederacy. He also noted that Maury was opposed to slavery. Buchanan, Carter said, turned in his commission when he believed his home state of Maryland would secede from the union. When it didn’t, he sought to return, but the secretary of the Navy at the time rejected the request.

Franklin Buchanan (left) and Matthew Fontaine Maury. Images from Library of Congress.

Franklin Buchanan (left) and Matthew Fontaine Maury. Images from Library of Congress.

Carter said he has not been getting encouragement to change the names.

“The other thing is, there’s nobody clamoring within the campus nor our alumni, or anyone else, to effect a change, so I listen to those voices as well,” Carter said. “And nor are the midshipmen looking for a change, so these are all parts of the conversation that we are now being open to listen to.”

Carter also noted that the decision in changing building names rests with the Chief of Naval Operations. Carter brought up the issue during a public portion of the board meeting.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat who is on the board, said the issue also was discussed during a portion of the meeting that was closed to the public. He declined to elaborate on what was said in the closed portion, but he said the committee will produce a report.

“It’s something that we’re looking at,” Ruppersberger said. “We’re evaluating.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson (left) and Vice Adm. Ted Carter. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brianna Jones.

Vice Adm. Ted Carter (right) and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brianna Jones.

Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican who chairs the board, said he believes there should be extensive discussion before any names are changed.

“I think you really need to think long and hard about the person in the context in which they existed in that period of time,” Wittman said.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he believes the Defense Department will end up making a military-wide policy on the issue. He said he didn’t see an urgent need to change the two names at the academy.

“But I do think it’s a matter of what do we want to have as a reflection of our values today, and that’s something that we should be looking at,” Cardin said.

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