History professor and Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History co-chairperson Jim Leloudis said Aycock was remembered for being the education governor, but he said it is not possible to look at Aycock’s work in education without noting his actions supporting white supremacy.
“For Aycock and for those around him, being a champion of public education and being a champion of white supremacy, those two things really weren’t separable,” he said.
University historian Cecelia Moore, the task force’s project manager, said time has helped change people’s perspectives on Aycock’s views.
“It has been clear for a number of years that Aycock played a central role in white supremacy campaigns. I think that people came to understand that they no longer wanted to honor him as much as the previous generations had,” she said.
Graham said when the building was named in 1928, Aycock was a revered figure among state residents, including the Board of Trustees.
“I would be surprised if there was any objection from that group because Aycock was held in a high regard,” he said.
Leloudis said the process of naming buildings in that time left little chance for feedback.
“There really would have been next to no opportunity to comment on the name until the letters were on the building,” he said.
Kieran Shanahan, vice chairperson of the ECU Board of Trustees, said when ECU removed Aycock’s name from the residence hall, they added him as the first inductee to their Heritage Hall, which will be completed in 2018.
“It’s a place where we are going to be able to provide information, good and bad, on different people of historical significance to the University,” he said. “We want to put more in-depth stories rather than just a name or a monument to people who have historical significance to the University or, in his case, education.”
Shanahan said he would like ECU’s Heritage Hall to serve as a model for other schools.
In May 2015, after the renaming of Carolina Hall, the Board of Trustees put a 16-year freeze on UNC’s naming policy. UNC cannot rename Aycock Hall for at least 15 years.
Graham said he thinks renaming at other universities is important to consider.
“I think some of the students and administrators at other schools have raised some interesting points and I think it’s worth exploring,” he said.