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Texas: Time to deal with former university President Hereford’s racist legacy

By Mark Napieralski |
October 9, 2022
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Arlington, TX - University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is one of the most diverse campuses in the state of Texas, and the United States as a whole – yet it has a history of segregation and racism that the current administration attempts to whitewash and ignore. A man responsible for some of the most egregious aspects of UTA’s history is none other than former university President E. H. Hereford, who has a bust located in the University Center (UC) named after him.

Progressive Student Union has a campaign to bring down the racist symbols that UTA has propped up, and to this end we are wanting to remove Hereford’s bust from the University Center and to then have the name “Hereford” dropped from the UC.

What is the proof of the racist environment that Hereford created? The neo-Confederate theme he established at the school, and his allowing racist performances and groups to exist with school backing and his maintaining the system of segregation in an era of the Civil Rights movement.

The confederate theme was just not calling the football team “Rebels,” it was a complete going all in for styling the campus as a mimicry of the Confederacy, from adopting its ideology that the Civil War was fought for a “righteous cause” to literally dressing up spirit teams in self-described “antebellum” uniforms. The Confederate battle flag and unofficial anthem Dixieland were our flag and school song respectively, and every aspect one could think of in attempting to honor the Confederacy was utilized by the school to adopt it as its own “culture.” “The South will rise again” was a phrase that would be unironically adopted to commemorate school events like the Old South Days, which were the culmination of the Confederate theme – doing mock secession speeches and hosting the infamous mock-slave auctions on campus.

Hereford also allowed a tradition of minstrelsy and blackface on campus, from groups doing blackface to raise funds for the school to literal minstrel shows being put on the college campus, like Little Black Sambo, which author Langston Hughes decried for its popularization of anti-black stereotypes.

Hereford allowed an organization to take up the moniker of KKK - known officially as the “Kampus Kadet Klub” but it also went by the nickname of the “Davis Hall Klansmen.” This was at a time that the Klan existed as a major force and committed terroristic acts - such as the assault of Alex Johnson. Johnson’s skull had “KKK” carved into his skull, literally, by acid by the Klan.

Hereford maintained the segregationist system despite students’ opposition, and he was extremely close to segregationist Attorney General Price Daniel – who argued against desegregation in Sweatt v. Painter and would later go on to be a proponent of the “Southern Manifesto” against desegregation. Daniel sent him his own arguments and advised him on the dangers of desegregation, and that later on, the administration Hereford fostered would specifically deny applications from Black students despite the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

In a time where neo-Confederate sympathies and the icons of the Confederacy are more-or-less known to be seen for the racist politics or iconography that they are – UTA, as one of the most diverse colleges in Texas, should not uphold figures like Hereford, or Woolf, or Davis as men to look up to or be honored on campus. Davis, the racist eugenicist who preceded Hereford, had his name taken down from the administration building due to the efforts of PSU to bring up Hereford’s legacy back in 2018 – and it is now time to do the same to Hereford.

Hereford’s legacy is that of a segregationist, white supremacist and racist, rather than a “good luck charm” or just an important figure in school history. His legacy perpetuated and continued a racist atmosphere that would be inherited and expanded upon by his immediate successors – the mock-slave auctions under Woolf, and Harrison’s refusal to listen to Black students or his own Ombudsman Committee in challenging the racist traditions on campus.

With both new evidence coming to light, and the fact the old Committee that former President Karbhari set up not being able to find half of the information we uncovered – it is clear to me that Hereford should not be immortalized and honored in the way that he is. It is why we, as Progressive Student Union, have been both compiling a petition for his removal and attempting to set a referendum to put the question to the students on the name of the University Center and placement of the statue. UTA has plenty to honor and cherish in terms of its diverse history, but segregationists and defenders of white supremacy should not be among them as we have seen with Davis. Hereford, and Woolf, need to go.

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