So About Byrd Stadium

Yesterday, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh solved all problems with higher education announced that he intends to ask the University of Maryland Board of Regents to change the name of Byrd Stadium:

University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh wants to change the name of the College Park campus’ Byrd Stadium, which honors a longtime campus president who opposed integration

Loh said Monday he’ll ask the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, which meets Friday, to approve a new name, Maryland Stadium, for the facility.

In a campus-wide email announcing the decision, Loh said having Harry C. “Curley” Byrd’s name emblazoned on the stadium “conveys a racial message hidden in plain sight.”

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He said the stadium might not be the most important building on campus, but it is the most visible, serving as a “front porch” for the institution. To many African-American alumni and students, he said, “the name stands as a vivid and painful reminder that a generation ago, they were unwelcome on this campus.”

“This is a difficult and emotion-laden issue,” Loh said. “Any outcome will likely please few.”

Harry C. “Curley” Byrd was a former football player who taught English and history and served as athletic director before rising to university president, serving from 1935 until 1954. During his tenure, the campus grew significantly, and Byrd is credited with transforming it from “an undistinguished agricultural college to something resembling a modern university.”

But he’s also known for his opposition to racial integration in the early days of the civil rights movement, setting policies that were ultimately struck down in court. Byrd died in 1970.

That Byrd’s history of racially charged decisions is not a surprise, and has been documented in many places, including at the Testudo Times and the Diamondback. But there is one small thing that the Maryland Democratic Party hopes that you don’t remember about Curley Bird.

In 1954, Byrd stepped down as President of the University of Maryland to run for Governor of Maryland. He ran as a segregationist in the primary, campaigning primarily for the continuation of “separate but equal” accommodations for African-Americans in Maryland.  And he won the Democratic Nomination before losing to Republican incumbent and integrationist Theodore McKeldin. But Byrd’s history with the Democrats did not stop there. Not only did Byrd run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and for Congress in 1966, but he received several Democratic appointments despite being an avid segregationist, including an appointment by Democratic Governor Millard Tawes to run the Maryland Tidewater Fisheries Commission.

I’m sure that the are many Democrats excited about the potential renaming of Byrd Stadium. But it’s a good time to remind them the racist history of the Maryland Democratic Party in the recent past, one that they cannot escape despite trying to gloss over it at every turn.

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