Alshon Jeffery, other ex-South Carolina players want center renamed

Several former South Carolina football stars, including Marcus Lattimore and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, are leading a campaign to rename the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center on the school’s campus.

The former Gamecocks — who also include Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis and Shaq Wilson, now on the football staff at the University of Tennessee — shared the same statement on social media:

“To celebrate well known segragationist Strom Thurmond’s legacy by keeping his name on our Wellness Center sends a contradicitng message to our black students @UofSC. We can no longer be held back by those whose ideals represent divison. We must continue the fight for equality.”

While governor of South Carolina, Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist “Dixiecrat.” In one of his campaign speeches, he said that “all the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro race into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.”

Thurmond opposed the 1957 Civil Rights Act by making the longest filibuster in history by a single senator, speaking for a total of 24 hours and 18 minutes.

He died in 2003 at age 100. He was the longest-serving U.S. senator (1954-2003) and the oldest man ever to serve in Congress.

Thurmond donated $10,000 toward the building of the $38.6 million fitness center, which opened in 1998. According to GoUpstate.com, it was the 17th official place — buildings, rooms and roads — named for Thurmond in South Carolina at the time.

“The university chose him partly because of his image as someone who believes in wellness and fitness,” a school spokesman said then.

The auditorium at South Carolina’s law school bears his name, as does the school’s biomedical research center. Thurmond attended Clemson and was a member of the school’s cross country and track teams from 1921 to 1923. He was named to the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983 and the school named its public policy center, the Strom Thurmond Institute, for him in 1982.

South Carolina president Bob Caslen issued a statement on Monday, ahead of Friday’s board of trustees meeting, saying he recommended the renaming of a campus dorm named after J. Marion Sims, who Caslen said “performed hundreds of medical experimentations on enslaved African American women.”

“We will continue to study and place into the context the histories of the people whose names adorn our buildings,” Caslen said, “and — more broadly — to capture the voices and contributions of forgotten, excluded, or marginalized groups and individuals who positively contributed to the establishment, maintenance and growth of our university.”

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