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Petition looks to rename Strom Thurmond High School

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 3:36 PM EDT
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EDGEFIELD, SC (WRDW/WAGT) - Petitions around the state of South Carolina are calling for buildings and monuments honoring Strom Thurmond to be renamed.

A petition to rename the University of South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond Wellness Center is pushing nearly 17,000 signatures.

Closer to home is another petition to rename Edgefield County’s Strom Thurmond High School. It’s also gaining support.

Thurmond served as a South Carolina senator for nearly half a century and is honored with memorials and statues around the state. But because of his outspoken opposition to integration, some people believe it’s time to rethink the way we remember him.

“We have all decided, for the most part, that racism and systems that came from it such as segregation are wrong,” Ashley Adams, who started the Edgefield petition, said. “But, a little ways down the road, there’s a school named after someone who held these views.”

To Adams, actions speak louder than words. It’s why she’s chosen to fight for change rather than be a silent supporter.

“What we’re reckoning within this country is that there’s a few things that we’ve let slide a little bit, if we’re thinking about them systemically,” Adams said.

Her petition to rename Strom Thurmond High has more than 500 signatures. But, her battle hasn’t been easy. A state law signed in 1986 says the name of the high school must stay the same.

In a statement, Superintendent Kevin O’Gorman said, “this legislation is very unique because it ensured that the school’s name cannot be changed, which is something that local boards of education typically have complete autonomy to do.”

But for Adams, the law is nothing but red tape.

“Laws change,” Adams said. “All the time.”

On the state level, Sen. Lindsey Graham is opposed to the endeavor, too.

“He tried to help a lot of people and was well known for constituent service,” Graham said. “I guess what I’m saying is, he changed.”

But Adams says, changed or not, that wasn’t the legacy he left behind.

“When Strom Thurmond passed away, the New York Times headline said Strom Thurmond, foe of integration, dies at 100,” Adams said. “That is what he’s known for.”

There’s no question that this is an uphill battle, but Adams says she’s not one to back down from a fight.

There is a counter-petition to keep the name of the school. That one has just over 100 signatures.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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