Washington and Lee University to rename two buildings; changes to come to Lee Chapel

Robinson Hall, Lee-Jackson House to be renamed

LEXINGTON, Va. – Two buildings will soon have new names at Washington and Lee University.

During a weekend meeting, the Board of Trustees decided to change the names of both Robinson Hall and the Lee-Jackson House.

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These changes come after President Will Dudley's August response to the university's report of the Commission on Institutional History and Community.

Robinson Hall will be renamed Chavis Hall in recognition of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States, according to the university. 

Chavis graduated from Washington and Lee’s predecessor, Washington Academy, in 1799.

The previous namesake, John "Jockey" Robinson, helped found the academy in 1803, according to the university. Robinson left then Washington College his lands and the bulk of his possessions, according to his will. It's estimated that Robinson owned 73 to 84 slaves at the time of his death.

Lee-Jackson House will now be Simpson House, in recognition of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, the first woman to become a tenured professor at the university.

Simpson, who died in 2011, served as associate dean of the college and chaired the Co-Education Steering Committee from 1984 to 1986, according to the university.

The Lee-Jackson House was formerly the home of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who married the daughter of W&L’s president while Jackson was a professor at VMI, according to the university. The house remained a residence until it was renovated and turned into the Office of the Dean of the College.

In addition to these two renamings, the board also endorsed two changes to Lee Chapel:

  • The portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military attire will be replaced by portraits of them in civilian clothes.
  • The doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel will be closed during university events.
  • The board released this statement about its decision:

    We appreciate the seriousness and thoughtfulness with which our fellow trustees have approached these matters. On behalf of the Board, we want to express our gratitude to all of those members of the community who contributed to our deliberations, through countless letters and conversations over the summer and on campus this weekend. We are fortunate to be part of a community that cares deeply about this institution and is so dedicated to its continued success.

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