Matthew Fontaine Maury 1806-1873 was a Virginian and an officer in the US Navy, who resigned his commission rather than serve against his native state. He had been seriously injured early in his naval career, and rendered permanently unfit for sea duty, so he devoted his career to the application of science to naval affairs. His studies of winds and ocean currents became the foundation of the fields of Oceanography and Naval Meteorology. In addition to his intellectual services to the Confederacy during the War, Maury played an important role in promoting the founding the National Observatory, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Virginia Tech.
The Independent reports that the management of James Madison University has seen fit to cancel Matthew Fontaine Maury.
James Madison University has renamed three prominent buildings for African Americans who made significant contributions to the public institution in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, culminating a process of historical reckoning that began last summer when officials removed the names of Confederate leaders from the halls.
The buildings, all on the quad of the campus in Harrisonburg, now honour elements of the school’s past that had long been overlooked under a plan the JMU governing board approved Friday.
The action “is part of our deliberate effort to underscore JMU’s commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive institution”, the university’s president, Jonathan Alger, said in a statement.
“These names help us to tell a more complete history of our institution. They highlight and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of important individuals and groups who have historically been underrepresented in prominent campus namings.
“Collectively they represent faculty, staff, students, alumni and prominent members of our local community.”
What had been Maury Hall, honouring a Confederate naval officer, is now Gabbin Hall. Its new name honours Joanne Gabbin and Alexander Gabbin, a married couple who are longtime members of the university faculty. Joanne Gabbin is an English professor and Alexander Gabbin an accounting professor.
Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson 1824-1863, of course, was one of the greatest military commanders in history, particularly famed for his decisive role in reversing the outcome of the First Battle of Bull Run, for his brilliant campaign in defense of the Valley of Virginia in 1862, and for playing the key role in planning and executing the flank attack at Chancellorsville, in the course of which battle he was mortally wounded.
The former Jackson Hall, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, is now Darcus Johnson Hall.
Sheary Darcus Johnson was the first black graduate of what is now JMU, earning a bachelor’s degree in library science from Madison College in 1970 and a master’s degree in elementary education in 1974.
Brigadier General Turner Ashby 1828-1862 was General Jackson’s cavalry commander. In his relatively brief military career, he nonetheless left an extraordinary record of military efficiency, chivalry, and bravery, and was regarded as “the Bayard of the Confederacy. He was shot through the heart, and killed instantly, rallying his men for a charge, while commanding Jackson’s Army’s rear guard, June 6, 1862, near Harrisonburg.
The former Ashby Hall, named for a Confederate cavalry officer, is now Harper Allen-Lee Hall. Its new name honours Doris Harper Allen, who worked as a cook for a Madison College president … as well as Robert Walker Lee, who provided janitorial and maintenance service at the school in the early 20th century and was believed to be its first black employee.
What can one possibly say?
We are experiencing a cultural revolution featuring an astonishing and reprehensible inversion of values that causes three heroes, men numbered among the greatest, most noble figures in the history of their native state and the nation, two of them especially associated with the specific region of the university, and who gave their lives in defense of their native state, to be cancelled, rejected, dishonored and discarded in favor of a cook and a janitor(!), a recent perfectly ordinary student, and a couple of minor and obscure current academics, all of whom possess no claim to distinction whatsoever beyond their membership in a particular identity group.