A University of Mary Washington lecture hall in Monroe Hall was dedicated to James L. Farmer Jr., a prominent leader in the American civil rights movement and past professor at UMW. A ceremony was held on Nov. 15, dedicating the lecture hall, 116, to Farmer.
“We must ensure that his story endures long after us,” said Tim O’Donnell, professor of communication. “In this lecture hall, his thunderous and booming voice will echo on forever.”
Georgia State Sen. Nan Orrock, a 1965 UMW graduate, delivered the keynote address at the dedication.
Orrock said that Farmer and others like him made a great impact on her life.
“My life has been changed by Farmer because he was a part of those leaders who stood up and had a vision of democracy for all,” said Orrock.
Orrock also spoke about growing up in a segregated Stanton, Va.
“I was educated, but I had the privilege as a white person to turn away from it and not deal with the reality of segregation,” said Orrock.
While working in Washington D.C. during the summer of 1963, Orrock had her first experience in a racially integrated situation, which led to an invitation to join the March on Washington later that year, according to Orrock.
Orrock said the march greatly affected her life and inspired her to dedicate herself to the movement.
UMW President Rick Hurley and members of the UMW Board of Visitors also attended the dedication and presented Orrock with the Monroe Medal, one of UMW’s most prestigious awards that recognizes individuals who have provided service to humanity and society that is lasting.
Ellen Peiser, junior history major, said she was glad that the University dedicated the lecture hall to Farmer.
“I think he was a really important faculty member to our school, and acknowledging his work with the civil rights movement is really important to the values that we want to instill in our graduates,” said Peiser.
During the dedication, Jeffrey McClurken, chair of the history department and professor of history and American studies, presented work by his digital history students that make Farmer’s recorded lectures available on UMW Blogs.
“It is indeed right and appropriate that we honor James Farmer in this way, in this room in which he touched so many lives,” said McClurken. “He was a man who lived through the movement, changed the movement and had been changed by it.”
Holly Cuellar, a member of the BOV, said she was deeply touched by the dedication ceremony.
“Farmer’s work didn’t stop in the civil rights movement. It continues to live on,” said Cuellar.
Hurley said he was very pleased with the dedication.
“I am so proud of the institution to continue to recognize Dr. Farmer’s contributions in these special steps that we are taking to preserve his legacy,” said Hurley.
Orrock said everyone must learn from the past.
“What the University is doing is so important in lifting up his teachings and his legacy,” said Orrock. “Those are lessons that will serve us well going forward because as much progress as we’ve made, we have mountains to climb.”