MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, in a statement released June 24, said it was “right and appropriate” to engage the university community on the name of Forrest Hall, the campus building that houses the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
Debate about the name of Forrest Hall has surfaced periodically through the years,” McPhee said. “In light of the horrific killings in Charleston, and the national discussion that has ensued in the aftermath, it is right and appropriate to revisit this matter with the university community, our alumni and supporters, and state officials, who by law must approve any change.”
Forrest Hall was built in 1954 to house the ROTC program, but wasn’t dedicated until 1958, when the building was officially named for Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. It was chosen because of Forrest’s notoriety as a military tactical genius for the Confederate Army during the Civil War and because of his ties to Middle Tennessee, including being born in nearby Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
Debate about the university’s ties to Forrest rose periodically through the civil rights era and beyond; the university removed a 600-pound bronze medallion of Forrest from the Keathley University Center in 1989.
Opposition to the name of Forrest Hall didn’t reach its height, however, until 2006-07, when a number of students petitioned to have the name removed because of Forrest’s ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Others supported keeping the name.
MTSU conducted a series of public forums to discuss the issue. The university ultimately decided to keep the building’s name after the Student Government Association rescinded an earlier request to consider a name change and African-American student groups informed university leaders that the name change was not a priority for them at that time.