Oklahoma State removes name of racist governor from campus halls

Murray Hall on OSU campus.

STILLWATER, Okla. – The governing board of Oklahoma State University Friday ordered the removal of the name of the state’s 9th governor from campus halls because of his racist reputation.

Murray Hall and North Murray Hall were named after William H.  “Alfalfa Bill” Murray in 1935, the year his only term as governor ended. Earlier in his political career, he was twice elected to the U.S. House from Oklahoma.

University President Burns Hargis recommended the school’s board of regents remove Murray’s name because his racist policies “stripped many black Oklahomans of their constitutional right to vote.” The nine-member body responded with a unanimous decision.

Students and faculty had urged the university for years to rename the Murray buildings, which house offices and classrooms. More than 5,000 people recently signed a petition to remove his name.

Hargis said Murray’s name “invoked reminders of the painful past. Oklahoma State is committed to eliminating systemic racism and embracing our responsibility as a university to support solutions to the inequality and injustice our country and community faces.”

Murray, who died in 1956, led the political movement for segregation and Jim Crow laws in Oklahoma. He was known for his racist remarks about both black and Jewish people.  He supported segregationist Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign for president on his “Dixiecrat” platform opposed to civil rights for blacks.

Murray acquired the nickname “Alfalfa Bill” early in his political career while campaigning among farmers, and talking about a large tract of alfalfa he cultivated. The editor of a local newspaper thought he was an accomplished orator and assigned him the moniker that stuck for a lifetime.

Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, is also named after the former governor. 

The Stillwater, Okla., News Press contributed details to this story. 

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