STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – There’s a new petition gaining steam that wants to change the name of Oklahoma State’s Murray Hall.
The building is named after Oklahoma’s ninth governor, William H. Murray. Murray is accused of being a racist, antisemitic and a proponent of Jim Crow laws.
“It’s obvious that he did everything possible to prevent a diverse university like Oklahoma State from forming,” Samantha Harris told KFOR.
Samantha started the petition to rename Murray Hall. She doesn’t go to Oklahoma State, but she takes college classes in Stillwater, and walks by Murray Hall daily. When she learned more about who he was, she felt like she had to act.
“Once I started the petition, I got a bunch of emails from alumni,” Samantha said. “They remember fighting this battle when they attended the university ten years ago.”
Aside from his role as governor, Murray served as president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. During the convention, Murray gave a speech saying African-Americans should have hard labor jobs and not be doctors or lawyers.
“That was one speech at the Constitutional Convention. He wasn’t super outspoken early in his career,” Larry O’Dell with the Oklahoma Historical Society says. “Like I said, he was progressive and married an American-Indian woman.”
Historians credit Murray as being the reason the state constitution is one of the most progressive in the early 20th century, but later in his life he wrote about his opposition to desegregation and the civil rights movement.
“He was not alone in those beliefs at the time,” O’Dell said. “Scratch just about any politician in the early 20th century, and you’re going to find this kind of attitude, unfortunately.”
In response to the new petition, the university sent us the following statement:
“OSU is committed to diversity and inclusion, and to respecting all peoples and backgrounds. We understand the pain that the namesake of Murray Hall creates for many members of our campus community and respect the efforts of the petition to remove Governor Murray’s name from the building.
In accordance with the OSU A&M Board of Regents policy for removing a name from an OSU facility, the OSU Student Government Association (SGA) submitted a resolution this spring supporting the removal of Governor Murray’s name from Murray Hall. That resolution was unanimously approved by a committee comprised of representatives from the SGA, Faculty Council, Staff Council, Alumni Association and the OSU Foundation.
The request has now been referred to the OSU Facilities Planning and Space Utilization Committee and if approved there, the recommendation will go to the University president who may determine to send the resolution to the OSU A&M Board of Regents for the final decision which will be made in due course.”OSU Statement Regarding Murray Hall Renaming Petition
The petition can be found by clicking here.