Jul 28, 2021 - News
University of Arkansas System board votes to keep Fulbright statue
James William Fulbright was a democratic U.S. Senator from 1945 to 1974.
James William Fulbright was a Democratic U.S. senator from 1945 through 1974. Photo: Corbis via Getty Images

A statue of Sen. J. William Fulbright will remain in its current location behind the Old Main building on the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas.

  • Fulbright, a Democrat, was UA president before serving in the U.S. Senate from 1945 through 1974.

What happened: In a special meeting Wednesday, the UA System board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of a resolution from system president, Donald Bobbitt, to retain the statue while adding historical context.

Why it matters: The vote goes against the recommendations of a UA campus committee as well as former UA chancellor Joe Steinmetz, who said it should be moved to a different location.

  • While Fulbright is known for promoting international relations through education, many see his segregationist legislation and his support of the "Southern Manifesto of 1956" as offensive and racist.

However, a push to remove Sen. Charles Hillman Brough's name from the Brough Commons dining hall was successful, with the board voting in favor.

  • In 1919, Brough ordered U.S. soldiers to "round up" Black sharecroppers who were seeking better wages. An estimated 200 were killed in what's known as the Elaine Massacre. Brough had little involvement with the university, its faculty or students, according to Bobbitt's resolution.
The J. William Fulbright statue behind the Old Main building on the University of Arkansas campus. Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
The J. William Fulbright statue behind the Old Main building on the University of Arkansas campus. Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Details: Bobbitt's resolution directs the university to add historical context on the Fulbright statue "that affirms the University's commitment to racial equality and acknowledges Senator Fulbright's complex legacy, including his record on international affairs, Civil Rights legislation, and racial integration."

Flashback: Steinmetz recommended in May that the statue be moved from its location. But said the Fulbright College should keep its name.

  • Steinmetz has since resigned for unknown reasons.

Of note: Bobbitt's letter to the board of trustees called out Act 1003 of 2021, now a law, which prevents removing or relocating monuments on public property without a waiver from the Arkansas History Commission.

  • "If a path presents itself at a later time to consider the relocation of the statue that is consistent with state law, the Board can revisit this issue," Bobbitt wrote.
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