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Monday March 27th

Two buildings renamed after UNC 'firsts' Henry Owl and Hortense McClinton

Owl was the first American Indian student and McClinton was the first Black professor at UNC

Hortense McClinton, the first black faculty member at the University,  spoke at the Parr Center for Ethics’ Lunch and Learn program in the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building on Tuesday at noon. McClinton was hired in 1966 as a professor in the UNC School of Social Work.
Buy Photos Hortense McClinton, the first black faculty member at the University, spoke at the Parr Center for Ethics’ Lunch and Learn program in the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building on Tuesday at noon. McClinton was hired in 1966 as a professor in the UNC School of Social Work.

The University announced on Friday plans to officially rename the Student Affairs building and former Aycock Residence Hall.

The Student Affairs building, formerly known as the Carr Building, will carry the namesake of Henry Owl, the first American Indian student and person of color to attend UNC. Hortense McClinton will be honored with her name on the former Aycock Residence Hall. McClinton was the first Black professor at UNC.

“Hortense McClinton and Henry Owl were trailblazing pioneers who left an indelible legacy at Carolina," Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in the campus announcement. "They embody the values that define our University, and naming these buildings after them marks an important step in building a campus community where everyone feels that they belong and can thrive."

The Board of Trustees voted to rename the buildings for Owl and McClinton in its Nov. 4 meeting. The names of the two buildings were initially removed in July 2020, following the Board of Trustees' lifting a 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings the month before.

Owl, a member of the Eastern band of Cherokee, enrolled at the University in 1928 as a graduate student in history.

Owl received a master's degree in history and completed a thesis entitled, “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Before and After the Removal," which documented the “exterminating spirit” that animated white encounters with the Cherokees, from the time of first colonial contact to the modern day.

Owl was also active in fighting for full citizenship and voting rights for members of Cherokee Indians.

During McClinton's time on the UNC faculty in the School of Social Work, she taught courses on casework, human development, family therapy and institutional racism.

McClinton also helped establish the predecessor organization to the Carolina Black Caucus and worked with various units on campus to improve services for students with disabilities.

McClinton received a legacy award for distinguished service from the University’s Black Faculty and Staff Caucus in 2009 and a Faculty Service Award from the UNC General Alumni Association in 2021.

Today, she lives in Silver Spring, Md. 

"I am very much honored," McClinton told The Well. "I’m glad they’re doing it before I died because I am 103."

Friday's announcement is part of the ongoing effort to rename campus buildings with known white-supremacist namesakes. 

How did we get here?

In June 2020, the BOT voted to lift a 2015 moratorium placed on changing building names.

Changing building names is a two-part process: name removal and renaming. The Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward submits potential building names to be considered for removal to the chancellor. The names are then put before a vote by the BOT.

After a building's name has been removed, community members can submit names to be considered as a replacement. The chancellor and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Naming University Facilities and Units review potential names to submit to the BOT for approval. The board  votes on which names go into effect.

In July 2020, the BOT removed three names from buildings on campus — the Carr Building, Aycock Residence Hall and the Josephus Daniels Student Stores. 

Before Friday's announcement, the Carr Building was referred to as the Student Affairs Building and Aycock as Residence Hall One.

In April, the joint Residence Hall Association/Carolina Housing Renaming Committee released a statement calling for Residence Hall One to be renamed for a female-identifying individual. 

“For years now, Residence Hall One has been an all-female hall, and many have slept with a name over their heads that did not represent the University’s values," the statement read. "We dream of a campus where every resident feels comfortable in the residence halls in which they reside and are proud to call them their home.”

Where are we now?

A new name has not yet been announced for the Student Stores building.

In June, the James Cates Remembrance Coalition sent a proposal to University officials to rename the Student Stores after James Lewis Cates Jr., a Black man who was stabbed to death in the Pit by members of a white supremacist biker gang on Nov. 21, 1970.

The proposal was sent to University leaders and was endorsed by local organizations, groups and individuals. As of October, the chancellor has forwarded a recommendation to the Board of Trustees leadership.

In October, a committee that reports to the chancellor unanimously agreed to recommend the building name removal of Avery Residence Hall and Bingham Hall. These meetings were prompted by a request from the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward to remove 10 building names. After the committee discusses the remaining names, it will submit its recommendations for name removal to the chancellor.


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