The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System on Friday unanimously approved the renaming of the former George C. Wallace Building on the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus. The facility is now the Physical Education Building.
The decision followed a unanimous recommendation by a working group charged with reviewing named buildings on UA System campuses relative to Shared Values that include integrity, leadership, accountability, diversity, inclusion and respect.
“This is simply the right thing to do,” said Trustee Judge John England Jr., who represents the Board workgroup. “The UA System, the Board of Trustees, our working group and our campuses recognize Governor Wallace’s complex legacy, including the well-known acceptance of his apology by civil rights icon John Lewis. That said, his stated regret late in life did not erase the effects of the divisiveness that continue to haunt the conscience and reputation of our state.”
In his presentation to the Board, England cited the reaction of Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the daughter of George Wallace, who had shared a comment about the Board’s pending action.
“I, along with my husband Mark, have confidence in the Board’s decision to rename the UAB Physical Education Building,” she said. “It is important to the university to always seek positive and meaningful change for the betterment of students, faculty and the community.”
In June 2020, then-President Pro Tem Ronald Gray announced formation of the working group to review and study the names of buildings at UA, UAB and UAH. Members include England as chair, Barbara Humphrey, Vanessa Leonard, Harris Morrissette, Scott Phelps and Stan Starnes. The group’s recommendations are presented in formal meetings of the Board and voted by the 15 members.
UA System Chancellor Finis St. John said, “Researching the contributions and longstanding impact of individuals whose names are on our campus buildings is directly in keeping with our commitment to champion diversity, equity and inclusion and to fulfill the core principles that guide our future. The Board’s working group has taken on this complex charge with thoughtful consideration and in-depth research.”
UAB President Ray L. Watts commended the thorough review process. “On behalf of UAB’s diverse community of students, faculty and staff who live our Shared Values every day, I thank the Board of Trustees, the University of Alabama System leadership and particularly the dedicated members of the working group for their thoughtful study of history as we look forward to building a bright and successful future.”
George Wallace was the 45th governor of Alabama. In 1972, he ran for president of the United States and, while campaigning in Laurel, Maryland, was shot in an assassination attempt, which left him paralyzed. Wallace underwent extensive physical therapy at the Spain Rehabilitation Center, a part of the UAB Health System. Since the then-new physical education building was closely connected to the Spain Rehabilitation Center, and in recognition of Wallace’s “substantial support, interest, and contributions to the University of Alabama in Birmingham,” the Board of Trustees named the physical education building on the Birmingham campus the “George C. Wallace Building” at its meeting on July 14, 1975.