Two competing petitions over the fate of a statue on the Texas A&M University campus are running head-to-head, as cities and towns across the United States continue to remove monuments over connections to racial issues in the nation’s history.
At the center of the controversy is a statue of Lawrence Sullivan “Sully” Ross, who served as one of the youngest generals in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War before he was elected two terms the Governor of Texas. In 1891, He became the president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, which is now Texas A&M, and saved the school from the brink of shutting down.
A statue of Ross was erected in 1918 in the heart of the Taxes A&M campus to commemorate his contribution, according to the university’s website. Commonly known as “Sully,” it is now the oldest sculpture on campus.
Earlier this week, the statue was covered with a tarp after being defaced. The base of the statue was painted with the word “racist” and the acronyms “BLM” and “ACAB” in red spray. There was also a male genital drawn in red paint on the body of the statue along with a rainbow-colored wig.
“While Sully made strong contributions to Texas A&M, he served as a Confederate General, saw Blacks as inferior, did not support integration, and was against woman’s suffrage. It’s long overdue for the statue to be removed,” read an online petition to remove the Ross statue from the campus, which has gained over 22,000 signatures in the past 2 weeks.
“Ross symbolizes a period of time at Texas A&M when Black students would not be allowed to walk on our campus,” the petition argued.
Meanwhile, a counter petition titled “Keep the statue of Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross in front of the Academic building” was created shortly after and has generated about 24,000 supporting signatures.
“Recently, an online petition has been circulating regarding the removal of the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross,” reads the counter petition. “Texas A&M prides itself in its esteemed traditions and history, and Sully represents both.”
“The school we know and love today wouldn’t exist without the noble and selfless service given by Lawrence Sullivan Ross,” stated one of the petition creators, who updated the petition to include a list of Ross’ contribution to both the university and the state of Texas.
The attempt to remove “Sully” is not new to Texas A&M campus community. In 2017, after the neighboring University of Texas at Austin removed a Confederate statue on its campus, the university’s president, Michael Young, promised that the statue would never be removed.
“Without Sul Ross, Texas A&M University nor Prairie View A&M University would likely exist today,” Young said in a statement at the time. “He saved our school and Prairie View through his consistent advocacy in the face of those who persistently wanted to close us down.”