The board of visitors at James Madison University did the right thing by thoroughly reviewing and ultimately removing the institutional markers that honor three men who were traitors to our Constitution, sought to dismantle our country, and fought to establish an independent slavocracy in perpetuity.

However, the university should not rename these buildings after public figures. I suggest renaming them Piedmont Hall, Rappahannock Hall, and Appalachian Hall.

Why not honor accomplished Americans?

There is a small but growing iconoclastic movement (that has latched onto activists with nobler pursuits than theirs) who believe the United States is inherently perverse beyond redemption and has little to nothing in its earlier or even recent history worth memorializing. For example, last week’s Washington Post article, “Virginia schools quickly drop Confederate names, this time ignoring calls to preserve ‘history,’” mentions that a Virginia Commonwealth University student has started a petition to rename Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Falls Church that is being considered by the city’s school board. In the eyes of this student’s movement, Jefferson is not merely unworthy of admiration but repugnant and irredeemable; for them, writing the Declaration of Independence, founding the country’s first secular university, inventing the swivel chair, introducing us to macaroni and cheese, defeating the slave-raiding Barbary pirates, and banning the international slave trade cannot remove the stain of his status as a slave owner, typical of his peers in 18th-century Virginia. These fanatics are shallow in their understanding of history and apply an uncompromising purity test, holding long-deceased people of remarkable accomplishment against themselves. This puritan mob derives much self-esteem from minimizing the virtues and amplifying the vices of people who’ve contributed much more to the greater good than they ever will. To borrow a phrase from Madison in Federalist No. 55, their passions are inflamed by “indiscriminate and unbounded jealousy, with which all reasoning must be vain.” If their momentum continues, even the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. could be at stake soon.

The JMU board of visitors should strongly consider renaming Jackson, Ashby, and Maury halls for things that are relevant and unobjectionable, such as physical features of Virginia: our hills, rivers, and mountains. Let us return to the land we all share for much-needed symbols of unity, organic sources of inspiration to engender civic virtue and sustain patriotism.

In 1926, students at the University of Arizona pondered the meaning of patriotism:

“Patriotism is more than saluting the flag or singing the national anthem. It is a respect for the nation, a deep seated love for the soil itself.”

The JMU board of visitors has an opportunity to rename these three campus buildings for things that can unite us today as well as connect our history with our present and future. Virginia’s physical features define its borders, provide us natural sanctuary, and shape who we are. Their beauty inspires wonder and discovery, as does James Madison University itself. Piedmont Hall, Rappahannock Hall, and Appalachian Hall would forever befit the JMU community like no tribute to a public figure could.

Brian Stout, a James Madison University graduate, lives in Reston.

(11) comments

Mike Muterspaugh

prodigalson- I stand, head down, properly chastised.




Can we use the names of cartoon characters?


You beat me to it, Mr. LVW.[beam]


At the risk of repeating myself, which I am, might I suggest that the halls be named after well-known Supreme Court justices? For example, justices Hugo Black and Byron White might be a couple of good choices. Ohhhh….. Wait a minute. That may be problematic. [ohmy]

James Poplar

The author of this piece as many progressives wants to have it both ways. As James Madison grew up in a slave-owning family and owned slaves all his life why does he not advocate changing the name of JMU as well ? If Confederates were "traitors" then why were many ex-Confederates were welcomed into federal service after the Civil War. Colonel John Singleton Mosby as the American Consul in Hong Kong, or Lt. Gen. “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler as a U.S. Army major general during the Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection or Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, as American minister resident in Turkey, The Confederate States of America (CSA) fought to defeat the federal government's autocratic rule over their homeland.

Mike Muterspaugh

Exactly James. And again they "ignore" Wilson. Hypocrites all.


Thoughts from a shallow-minded., Brainwashed millennial, know-it-all kook. First off, the “traitors” were residents of states that left the union due to the actions of government officials they likely had little to no control over. Just like what is going on now by the liberals in Virginia who have seized power and pushed their agenda on the whole state. I don’t approve of their actions or ideas but Do you see me or others violently protesting and breaking laws?


Didn't Southern voters have proportionately more control over the pre-war government, since they somehow convinced the Constitutional Convention to count slaves as 3/5 of a person, even though they were not considered human and therefore could make no demands on their representatives in Washington?

Mike Muterspaugh

sbsheridan-1860 census. The southern states had 8 million whites and 4 million staves. 4 million by .60=2.4 million. 2.4 million plus 8 million = 10.4 million. The northern states had 20 million whites and 50,000 slaves. Total-20.030 million. Thought I would help you with the math Ms Sheridan.


Mike, how unfair of you to use reason and logic to destroy Mother Superior's left wing false narrative! Outrageous!

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