Surfing the web a few weeks ago, I ran across this bizarre entry on Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit blog. Now, personally, I would have thought that Reynolds would be opposed entirely to naming buildings after terrorists, but apparently not so much:
HMM: University of Texas regents take KKK organizer’s name off dorm. Does that mean that all those buildings named after Robert Byrd in West Virginia will have to change?
UPDATE: Reader Mike Ferrante writes: “Seems like we’re getting like the old Stalinist Russia where we erase the people who have become unfashionable. WTF.”
Now personally, I’m not a fan of Robert Byrd and, yes, his name should come off all those public buildings. By his own admission, Byrd’s infatuation with the KKK was short lived and he apologized for his involvement in it repeatedly, but it also seems clear that Byrd was most upset about what the KKK association did to his political career more than any actual intolerance he perpetuated (as late as 1997 he warned aspiring politicians not to get involved with the Klan because of the albatross it would place around their careers!)
But Byrd’s sins are relegated to the awful, bigoted things he wrote in letters and said in public forums. William Stewart Simkins, the lawyer who had the University of Texas dormitory named after him, was an out-and-out terrorist. As Dr. Tom Russell, who wrote a paper on UT’s history, notes,
After the Civil War ended, William Stewart Simkins dishonored himself by becoming a criminal and terrorist. In late 1860s Florida, Simkins and his brother Eldred were Klan leaders. A masked, armed nightrider who admitted terrorizing freed slaves, William Stewart Simkins proudly spoke of beating a “darkey” with a barrel stave. He robbed a train of rifles intended for the state militia, and the Klan used these guns to terrorize African Americans. Simkins threatened an African-American legislator and kept blacks from the polls. In just one of the Florida counties under his command, Klansmen murdered 25 freed slaves during a three-year period.
It is obscene for Mike Ferrante and Reynolds to suggest that renaming a building to register disapproval for a terrorist is making us like “the old Stalinist Russia” and to bizarrely suggest that Simkins’ acts of violence and terror have merely become “unfashionable.”