The university’s board of visitors voted Friday to remove the name of John Powell, a white supremacist in Virginia, from Powell Hall on the Radford campus.
In 2005, history professor Richard Straw and his class “discovered” that Powell, a Richmond-born classical musician, composer and expert on Appalachian folk music, was also founder of the Anglo-Saxon Club of America and heavily involved in passage of Virginia’s racist “Racial Integrity Act of 1924,” a law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. But Virginia does not take interference with its inbred racism easily and did not repeal the act until 1974.
Powell and his brother-in-arms Walter Plecker, Virginia’s state registrar of vital statistics, hated people of color, calling them “polluting,” “undesirable,” “feebleminded” and “mongrel.”
Together, they campaigned not only against blacks but all people of color, including Indians, which they wanted “reclassified” as “colored.”
“Some of these mongrels, finding they have been able to sneak in their birth certificates unchallenged as Indians, are now making a rush to register as white,” Plecker claimed.
Plecker and Powell supported Virginia’s infamous “eugenics” policies, which classified people as “unfit to reproduce” and sent them to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded just outside Lynchburg. The state sterilized them and then sent them to private homes for work for less than minimum wage for the state or for private citizens.
Virginia’s eugenics system became the model for Adolph Hitler’s despicable program to purge Jews and others from his vision of an all-white German society.
Why did it take Radford University five years to rid the school of the stigma of a building named after a racist? Acting Provost Joe Scartelli, who served as dean of the college visual and performing arts when Professor Straw and his students “discovered” Powell’s questionable past, says it “just fell off my desk.”
Which sounds, to us like another way of saying he just hoped everybody forgot about it so Radford University could continue honor a racist.
Scartelli claims he wanted to take action when Powell’s sordid history was revealed five years ago but others things took a higher priority and he wasn’t reminded of the need to rename Powell Hall until Christian Trejbel of the Roanoke Times called a couple of weeks ago and asked whatever happened to the plans to do something about the University honoring a racist.
“That bulb went on in my head immediately, and I realized ‘Oh, my god, I’ve got to do something about this,” Scartelli told Tonia Moxley of The Times.
The other question is why somebody didn’t to a little research into Powell before naming the building after Powell in 1967, the same year the State Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s “Racist Integrity Act.”
They may teach history at Radford U. but it appears they don’t study it.