The Troy University Board of Trustees voted today to rename historic Bibb Graves Hall at the Troy, Alabama, campus in honor of U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis.
The name change is effective immediately, and the building will now bear the name John Robert Lewis Hall.
“John Lewis is a towering figure in American history, whose leadership and advocacy for non-violent change have left a lasting legacy for us all,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “Although Rep. Lewis once sought admission to then Troy State College as a young man and was sadly ignored, I am pleased to say that he became a friend to the University. He visited our campuses several times and was a profound influence on many of us. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for choosing to honor this Pike County native with this name change.”
Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County. As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts. In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement and he rapidly emerged as a leader in the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.
“We are honored that Troy University Board of Trustees and Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. saw it fit to rename one of its signature buildings John Robert Lewis Hall,” the Lewis family said in a statement. “We are so proud of this distinction.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the change and honor the longtime congressman.
“I am proud of my fellow Board members for unanimously approving the resolution to honor Congressman John Lewis,” said Gibson Vance, President Pro Tempore of the TROY Board of Trustees. “John Lewis’ character, spirit and selflessness reflect the values we strive to embrace every day at Troy University.”
Troy University previously honored Lewis with an honorary doctorate in 1989 and the Hall-Waters Prize in 2006 for his memoir “Walking with the Wind.” He was also the keynote speaker in 2018 during the annual Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month, which has since been renamed the Congressman John Lewis Leadership Conference.
“Naming this building in honor of Congressman Lewis is a great testament to the legacy of a man whose blood, sweat and tears continue to make Alabama and America a better place for all people,” said Lamar P. Higgins, Vice President Pro-Tempore.
Planning is under way for a ceremony to dedicate John Robert Lewis Hall, with details to be announced soon.