Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors unanimously approved the removal of Claudius Lee and Paul Brandon Barringer’s names from their respective residence halls Thursday.
Under the decision, the former Lee Hall is renamed Hoge Hall in favor of Janie and William Hoge —an African American couple that housed engineering students when on-campus housing was barred from Black students. The former Barringer Hall is renamed Whitehurst Hall in favor of James Whitehurst ’63 —the first African American permitted to live on Virginia Tech’s campus.
In a June statement recognizing the community’s concern over Lee Hall, President Tim Sands announced the Council on Virginia Tech History’s investigation of Lee and Barringer. Eventually, the council made recommendations to Sands and the Board of Visitors for their approval.
Preceding the Board of Visitors’ decision, a 1896 yearbook picture of Lee, who continued to have a major presence in the university’s engineering program, resurfaced in 1997 that listed him as the “father of terror” and president of the group “K.K.K.,” while Barringer, a former Virginia Tech president in the 1900s, spoke pro-slavery and anti-Black rhetoric during his public appearances.
“The previous names on these two residence halls —the temporary homes of many of our students of color in recent years —were inconsistent with the rich heritage and increasingly diverse community that is Virginia Tech,” Sands announced Thursday. “Because the Council sought input from existing groups, commissions, faculty, staff, students, and alumni within the university community, it helped us arrive, in a unified voice, at today’s decision.”
On social media, community members primarily shared support for the decision on Instagram. The announcement post, uploaded early Friday, has nearly 15,000 likes.
“This is awesome. I never knew this history about Tech at all. Great choices for the name changes,” said Ruby Johnson on Twitter. “As a Black woman who was able to live on-campus with no race restrictions on housing today, I’m proud to be a Hokie.”