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House bill floats $1M for renaming bases that honor Confederate leaders

Fort Gordon (U.S. Army Cyber Command/Released)

A recently released fiscal year 2022 defense funding bill would provide money to the U.S. Army to speed the renaming of bases and other facilities bearing the name of Confederate commanders — including Fort Gordon in nearby Augusta.

The $706 billion legislation, unveiled last Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee, allocates $1 million for the renaming effort, spearheaded by the Naming Commission, a congressionally mandated panel.

Fort Gordon, home to the Army’s cyber center of excellence, is among 10 installations the Naming Commission planned to visit and consider throughout the summer and fall, according to retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, the commission chairwoman.

Others include Fort Benning, near the Georgia-Alabama border, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Fort Lee in central Virginia, according to a Department of Defense announcement made in May.

Fort Gordon’s namesake is John Brown Gordon, a famed general who played a role in many Civil War battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg. Gordon — a Reconstruction foe and reputed Ku Klux Klan leader — was later elected to the U.S. Senate and, separately, to the Georgia governorship. The New Georgia Encyclopedia describes Gordon in the early 1900s as “the living embodiment of the Confederacy.”

Calls to rename military installations — wiping out the Confederacy link, often established during the Jim Crow era — have spiked in the wake of white-supremacist attacks, including the massacre of nine Black people at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston.

Efforts most recently intensified following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in 2020.

“Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division,” Gen. David H. Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, said in statement around this time last year. “Rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself.”

More than 1,895 Confederate symbols are still publicly present in the U.S., according to data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The tally includes military bases as well as government buildings, monuments, statues, streets, schools, parks and plaques.

A final briefing and report from the Naming Commission are due to Congress by Oct. 1, 2022. The Pentagon has several years to implement changes.

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(c) 2021 the Aiken Standard

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