VCU committee recommends removal of Confederacy-affiliated chapel, building names, memorabilia

This archived photo shows the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel when it was dedicated in November 1960. Photo courtesy of VCU University Relations

Hannah Eason, Managing Editor

VCU’s Committee on Commemoration and Memorials is recommending the removal or de-commemoration of 14 plaques, building names, portraits and other memorabilia associated with the Confederacy and the Civil War. 

The recommendations are open for public comment until July 24 at 5 p.m. Below are a list of proposed actions, the name or honoree’s connection to the Confederate army and a link for public comment. This information can also be found at inclusive.vcu.edu/public-comment

VCU announced it would audit Confederate names and symbols after the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The committee recommended one commemoration — adding the name Murry DePillars to a School of the Arts building. The building has not been determined. 

Murry DePillars served as the dean of the VCU School of the Arts from 1976-95 and assistant dean from 1970-75. When he retired, he was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus and a Presidential Medallion. DePillars died in his Richmond home in 2008.

MCV campus

This plaque honoring Simon Baruch sits in the Egyptian Building lobby in-between two entrances to the Baruch Auditorium. Photo by Hannah Eason

Baruch Auditorium was named for Simon Baruch, an MCV graduate and surgeon in the Confederate army. His son, philanthropist Bernard Baruch, donated $100,000 to renovate the Egyptian Building in 1939. 

There is a plaque commemorating Baruch’s service in the auditorium lobby and a plaque outside of the Egyptian building stating MCV’s involvement in the Civil War. The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the plaque in the lobby. 

To make a public comment on the committee’s recommendations on the Baruch Auditorium, visit this Google Form.

Completed in 1846, the Egyptian Building at 1223 E. Marshall St. is a designated National Historic Landmark as an example of Egyptian Revival architecture. Photo by Hannah Eason

Dooley Hospital is no longer standing on the MCV campus, but the building’s entrance was retained with the name etched in limestone. John Dooley served in the Confederate army.

The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of all mentions on campus. To make a public comment on the committee’s recommendations on Dooley Hospital, visit this Google Form.

Dooley Hospital’s entrance sits behind a bust of Hippocrates on MCV campus. The Greek physician faces Marshall Street adjacent to the Egyptian Building. Photo by Hannah Eason
Plaques are located in the back of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel. Photo courtesy of VCU University Relations

Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel was created using a $30,000 gift from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The chapel, used by the MCV community, initially included a Confederate flag that was removed a few years ago. The chapel, found on the 17th floor of the West Hospital, and several plaques honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis were established in 1960.

The committee recommends the de-commemoration, permanent closure of the chapel and removal of four plaques referencing Davis and Kathryn Wittichen, then-president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, on the MCV campus. 

A VCU spokesperson said the West Hospital, like other buildings on campus, is restricted due to COVID-19 and the chapel is closed. To make a public comment on the committee’s recommendations on the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel, visit this Google Form.

Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel plaques
The bulletin from the Medical College of Virginia is dedicated to the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel. Photo courtesy of VCU University Relations
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The McGuire Hall and McGuire Hall Annex houses administrative offices, classrooms, laboratories, Human Resources training facilities and a human science research facility. Photo by Hannah Eason

McGuire Hall at 1112 E. Clay St. was named in honor of Hunter Holmes McGuire. McGuire joined the Confederate army and later served as the medical director of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s second corps. After the war, McGuire returned to Richmond and became chair of surgery at MCV.

In 1893, he founded the College Physicians and Surgeons, later called the University College of Medicine, which became part of MCV in 1913. The building was dedicated to McGuire in 1927 by the MCV Board of Visitors.

During the war, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens used the UCM building as a temporary residence. The building burned in 1910, and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society placed a plaque outside of the new building noting Stephen’s residency. 

The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of the McGuire Hall name. To make a public comment on the committee’s recommendation, visit this Google Form

Inside of McGuire Hall is a bust of the former MCV professor of surgery. His son, Stuart McGuire, served as a dean, president and member of the MCV Board of Visitors. The committee recommends removing the plaque about Stephens and the McGuire bust from campus. To make a public comment on the committee’s recommendations on removing these memorabilia, visit this Google Form

On the corner of McGuire Hall at Clay and N. 12 streets, a plaque states that Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the Confederate States of America, lived in the former building. Photo by Hannah Eason
The MCV Alumni House on E. Clay St. houses the School of Medicine’s Development Office and meeting spaces. Photo by Hannah Eason

MCV Alumni House at 1016 E. Clay St. complements the architecture of the Maupin-Maury House, formerly located where the Ambulatory Care Center was built. MCV Founder Socrates Maupin built the house and later sold it to his cousin Robert Maupin. 

Matthew Fontaine Maury stayed at the house during the Civil War and conducted experiments with underwater torpedoes that he was developing for the Confederate navy. The Confederate Memorial Literary Society placed a plaque on the house honoring Maury’s work in 1910. The new alumni house displays this plaque and an additional plaque, detailing the Maupin-Maury House, placed in 1993.

The committee recommends petitioning VCU Health to de-commemorate and remove the plaque honoring Matthew Fontaine Maury and the plaque mentioning the Maupin-Maury House. 

To make a public comment on the committee’s recommendations on the MCV Alumni House, visit this Google Form.

Two plaques –– noting Matthew Fontaine Maury’s torpedo invention and the Maupin-Maury House –– sit on the MCV Alumni House’s brick wall. Photo by Hannah Eason

Tompkins-McCaw Library at 509 N. 12th St. honors five members of two Virginia families: Christopher Tompkins, J. McCaw Tompkins, Sally Tompkins, James B. McCaw and Walter Drew McCaw. The MCV Board of Visitors made the name change after a suggestion from Comptroller Major-General and then-MCV administrator William F. Tompkins. 

James McCaw was the organizer and commander of Chimborazo Hospital during the Civil War. Sally Tompkins operated a private Richmond hospital and received army commission from the Confederacy. The committee recommends the removal of the library’s name. To make a public comment on that recommendation, visit this Google Form

In the library, there is a plaque listing the five namesakes and their accomplishments. There are also several portraits of faculty members who contributed to the Confederacy. One portrait is of John Syng Dorsey Cullen, a surgeon and medical director in the Confederate army, wearing a Civil War uniform. Cullen was later chairman of surgery and dean of faculty at MCV. The committee recommends removing the plaque and portrait. To make a public comment on these recommendations, visit this Google Form

Tompkins-McCaw Library at 509 N. 12th St. Photo by Hannah Eason
Along with Cabell Library, Tompkins-McCaw Library was closed in March due to COVID-19. Photo by Hannah Eason

Wood Memorial Building is named for Judson B. Wood, a Richmond dentist and private in the Confederate army, and his wife. Wood donated heavily to MCV and helped fund the Wood building at 521 N. 11th St. 

The committee recommends de-commemorating and removing the name and associations from MCV campus. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form.

The Wood Memorial Building houses clinics, administrative and academic offices and units of the School of Dentistry. Photo by Hannah Eason

Monroe Park campus

The Fitzhugh Lee Monument honors Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s nephew, Fitzhugh Lee. He served in the Civil and Spanish-American wars and was the 40th governor of Virginia. 

The committee recommends petitioning the city to de-commemorate and remove the Fitzhugh Lee monument in Monroe Park, which is already in progress. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form

The 7th Army Corps Veterans Association and Auxiliary placed this cross honoring Fitzhugh Lee in Monroe Park in 1911. The City of Richmond removed the statue on July 9. Photo courtesy of VCU University Relations

Ginter House at 901 W. Franklin St. was named for businessman Lewis Ginter, who served as a major in the Confederate army. He built the home, which was later acquired by Richmond Professional Institute. As a philanthropist and entrepreneur, he financed the building of the Jefferson Hotel, owned a newspaper and supported many charities.

The committee recommends the de-commemoration and removal of all mentions on campus. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form.

Near Shafer Street, the Ginter House holds the offices for the provost, academic and faculty affairs, finance administrators, the Office of Planning and Decision Support and the Center for Community Engagement and Impact. Photo by Hannah Eason

Harrison House holds the Department of African American Studies and is named for Fort Harrison, which was used by Confederate forces during the Civil War.

The committee recommends the removal of the name “Harrison” from the building at 816 W. Franklin St. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form

Harrison House on Franklin Street houses the Department of African American Studies. Photo by Hannah Eason

The Howitzer Statue honors the Richmond Howitzers Artillery Battalion’s service during the Civil War. The Richmond Howitzer Association erected the statue in 1892.

The committee recommends petitioning the city to de-commemorate and remove the Howitzer Monument, which is already in progress. The statue was pulled down during a protest on June 16. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form.

The Howitzer monument stood in a grass area between the W. E. Singleton Center and James W. Black Music Center. Photo by Andrew Ringle
The statue honoring Richmond Confederate soldiers in the Howitzer Battalion lays next to its pedestal after being torn down during a protest on June 16. Photo by Andrew Ringle

The Joseph Bryan Statue in Monroe Park honors Richmond newspaper publisher and philanthropist Joseph Bryan. Bryan served with the Confederacy’s Richmond Howitzers and Colonel John Mosby’s cavalry brigade during the Civil War.

The committee recommends petitioning the city to de-commemorate and remove the Joseph Bryan Statue, which is already in progress. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form.

The statue honoring Joseph Bryan was removed from its base on July 9. The monument’s pedestal sits in Monroe Park. Photo by Hannah Eason
The pedestal of W.C. Wickham’s statue sits in Monroe Park. Photo by Hannah Eason

The W.C. Wickham Monument honors Confederate general, state senator and vice president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, Williams Carter Wickham. The statue, sculpted by Edward Valentine, was erected by Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad employees in 1891.

The committee recommends petitioning the city to de-commemorate and remove the W.C. Wickham Monument, which is already in progress. The statue was pulled down during a protest on June 6. To make a public comment on this recommendation, visit this Google Form.

The statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham lays beside its base in Monroe Park after being pulled down on June 6. Photo by Andrew Ringle

28 Comments

      • Every history course taught in every American high school and university since the founding of the Republic has been one about European/American history! That is the story of the Western world as we grew up knowing it. It will take centuries to tell the story of other races, heretofore ignored A Dept like that would encompass the rest of the university.

    • No this is: “The shocking, racist beliefs of Hunter Holmes McGuire are found in his own words printed in the 1901 introduction of the racist book, “The Old Plantation: How We lived in the Great House and Cabin Before the War,” by James B. Avirett. This book was written as a counternarrative to the exposé of the cruelty of slavery found in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a book Dr. McGuire described in his introduction as “bad.”
      Hunter Holmes McGuire bemoans “… the manumission (freeing) and enfranchisement (voting) of a race inferior both from heredity and servility.” He goes on to write, “Public opinion from the lakes to the gulf, is voicing American utterance as to the superiority of the Caucasian race. Your medical school is named after a vile white supremacist who decades after the Civil War ended hated the idea of the weaker race being free men. It gets worse; he actually goes on to defend lynching laws, stating that they wouldn’t be necessary if black men knew their place and didn’t engage in ‘fiendish behaviors”. Yes he was a brilliant surgeon. Goebbels and the Nazi surgeons were too.

  1. I find myself wondering what the development office at VCU might think about all of this. If the university is free to change the names on buildings and to remove statues and plaques, why would anyone ever again give a gift to the university in honor of anyone or in memory of anyone?

  2. I am saddened by all that is taking place in our Country today in the name of “social justice” and “black lives matter”. It is true that ALL lives matter and my God says so and I truly believe that it does. To destroy the good names of those who lived before us, many of whom never owned a slave or believed in slavery but lived in a time when slavery was acceptable is like us Christians now saying that we should remove all names, faces and history of any Jew because their distant relatives “Killed our Jesus”! How wrong and hateful would that be? When will we recognize that history is replete with men and women who were not perfect nor will it ever be so until time is no longer. As a holder of two degrees from V.C.U., I sincerely hope that no more destructive changes will be made going forward but if you chose to do so you can be assured that I will from that day forward disavow V.C.U..
    Stuart Cook

    • What people dont realize is that for every name change, movement of a monument/statue, etc there will be a brand new monument/statue erected to take its place along with huge Confederate flags. Use the historical items at VCU as teaching tools for future students and stop the Bolshevik purge. I will be observing what happens…along with my donations.

    • The very fact you believe Jews killed Jesus demonstrates anti-Semitism. Hang it up. Your time is past. McGuire was a blatant white supremacist who lamented the freeing of the slaves till the day he died- in writing. Shame on anyone who thinks he deserves anything. The it took all this time to recognize this is appalling. Richmond, VA joins the 21st century. Black medical students no longer have to study at a place named after someone who would have them still chained, tilling the fields.

  3. If the committee decides to make all of these changes in the name of social justice, they will regret having done so.
    Many of these people who you are trying to erase from history because the were affiliated with the confederacy were physicians who took the Hippocratic oath which states they treat all sick or wounded people. Does anyone on this committee realize these doctors treated Union soldiers as well as Confederate troops.
    This institution would not exist if it were not for these people who you are trying to erase from history.
    I disagree with the committees recommendations. If these changes are implemented I will be returning my diploma to the school and never contribute or have anything to do with VCU.

    • Isnt it interesting that black lives matter…but the black community has an abortion rate of 49%?? Gee, if that continues they will be gone from society in about 100 years or less??

  4. Who’s in charge at VCU now ? Students , BLM , Antifa ,Protesters , Ultra Liberal Faculty ! Has the university SO much money to waste on all this foolishness ? Ridiculous !

  5. Radical Marxist, Bolsheviks have to try and keep as much power and control as possible. They are scared to death that the walking corpse Biden is going to falter in November and there will be 4 MORE YEARS of MAGA. LOL

  6. This has all happened before in another century and in another country. I suspect that VCU will replace the monuments it tears down with guillotines.

  7. I’m embarrassed now to an alumni of VCU. Just wondering, are you still teaching American
    History? Are you leaving out the struggles all of our forefathers (Black and White) had to deal with? Are you sanitizing text books of all references to the Civil War? Are you embarrassed? For what? How can you be an educational institution when you decide what to teach rather than the actual history of this country.

    Regrettably for VCU, I’ll find another more deserving institution to be the benefactor upon my death. By the way, please take my name off the alumni roster and don’t call asking for money.

    Thomas Clark 1976

  8. Leave the names ALONE! And as for doing anything for Murry dePillars, absolutely NOT! He was an A-hole of the highest order. He made his secretary do work for him which was NOT work related all of the time. He did other things there which was wrong yet no one ever challenged him. He only got the job as dean because of a law that made people hire black candidates over more qualified white candidates. No! No! No! That man does not need any recognition at all. I was there. I knew him and how he was.

  9. It is sad to see an institution of higher learning become so corrupted in the execution of its mission as to believe it can change history by renaming buildings and removing statues. History will remain unchanged, while the university fails in its purpose to educate and illuminate. So little respect for the generosity of past benefactors. What do you plan next, book burnings?
    My diploma is enroute to the trash bin.

    Claude Bass

  10. If VCU’s efforts were truly “inclusive” and “diverse” they would not be removing these plaques and statues, but rather, they would be trying to contextualize them so that people could know better the complete history of VCU-MCV. Bowing to the mob and the “woke” crowd will not make the university a better place, just a spineless, appeasing one. …… Dr. James W. Blackburn

  11. Please consider exercising the option of eliminating the designation of “commemorative” on all historic markers under your review.

    A committee that is given the power to erase traces of history from a civilization has an awesome responsibility. Destruction is permanent. The implications of destroying or elimination of evidence relating to actual source material of the era, for future scholars, educators and historians is profound, It is chilling to consider our civilization following in the footsteps of other tragic countries whose committees have destroyed physical markers of historic significance from the continuum of developing nations thereby opening a space for conjecture and tailoring of a “new history” to be told without evidence and not always factual, according to the purpose of each new regime that unfolds throughout the ages.

    Every generation leaves markers of itself for future analysis and understanding. In this regard, the markers as well as the historic physical existence of artifacts that remain, becomes an artifact in the continuum of unfolding history. What you add to what remains is also a marker of all our generation will leave.

    Our current generation and your committee has the privilege and power to erase our history and make it vanish before our eyes and from the eyes of those who will follow us. This power was not given to you by the people but rather by appointment. However much we wish to, we cannot change history. It is our job to fully understand and through understanding draw conclusions. By elimination of that which was left to us by former generations we would be robbing the future of the opportunity to examine the past, which is their inalienable right, which all future generations own.

    In conclusion, I am suggesting rather than fulfilling your duty as a committee any reference to commemoration of the sites you review be removed. And in place of “commemorative” language a factual basis be presented, This would be a clear picture of who we are as a people looking forward while clearly acknowledging our past and honoring the rights of the people who will follow us so that they can know their history in total. Isn’t that the American Way?

  12. I am ashamed to have been on the medical faculty for 46 years as a member of the Department of Pathology. You can take down my portrait along with that of Dr. Saul Kay, founder and director of the Division of Surgical Pathology in 1950 and who directed the division along with myself for 50 years. You may also burn all the books and teaching material that I left for the residents and students to use when I retired in 2011. There is also a gallery in the division of surgical pathology of my paintings and drawings that I left for the faculty and residents to enjoy instead of sterile walls. All these items can be found on the 6th flour of the Gateway Building
    William J. Frable, M.D. Professor Pathology, Emeritus

    • Exactly. Who are these people that are up in arms about the names? I never heard any complaints before all this destruction occurred in our city.

  13. I wonder what will be next to be taken down? Will VCU Faculty and Staff who show degrees from Yale, Princeton and/or Cal-Berkeley be forced to take down diplomas, or have their Bios amended on the internet ? All of these schools have benefited or been named after confirmed slave holders, traders or Monarchs who perpetuated global slavery. If not, then VCU governance are hypocrites.

  14. The buildings associated with the donors should be razed if they are removing the plaques. No sense in keeping the buildings if you refuse to acknowledge the donor. Why should you benefit from the donors’ generosity if you fail to acknowledge that generosity.

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