GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Thousands of people have signed petitions for and against changing the name of Wade Hampton High School.
Tuesday evening, community members went before the Greenville County School Board to voice their opinions.
“It does not change history, but it does rid our school of ties to a racist history,” said Asha Marie, a Wade Hampton junior who started the petition to change the high school’s name.
She started her petition a couple weeks ago, and it now has nearly 1900 signatures.
“It was so exciting (getting in front of the school board), nothing is more invigorating than standing up for something you believe in,” Asha Marie said.
She said she started the petition after learning more about her school’s namesake. Tuesday night, several people joined her at the school board meeting supporting the name change.
A few people spoke of their family’s confederate histories but wanting to not make similar mistakes. However, not everybody agrees the man, who was a confederate general, owned slaves and supported the Klu Klux Klan, needs his name taken off the building.
People against the name change argue if you change the name of the school, then it will be a catalyst for other names that should be changed.
Wade Hampton senior, Austin Rutter, started a counter petition to keep the name of the school the same. His petition has nearly 2500 signatures.
“I’m not defending General Wade Hampton…I know his history, but I’m here to defend the legacy of the school, not who it was named after,” Rutter said.
He says there are also financial reasons to not change the name.
“It’s not a cheap thing, and we have a lot more important things to deal with,” Rutter said.
But he says if there is a name change, there needs to be a middle ground on deciding what it would be.
“Have the school come together and do it, and the community, instead of one side coming together being like ‘hey, let’s have it this name’ or one side saying ‘hey, let’s have it this name,’” Rutter said.
Asha Marie says she’s hopeful after standing in front of the board and is also thankful of the conversation this debate has spurred.
“In many ways it has been a learning experience for everyone, and in some ways, it has garnered a lot of pride in Wade Hampton which I think is good,” said Asha Marie. “It’s a good thing to have school pride.”
People who want the name changed say the next step is to start contacting lawmakers. It does take a 2/3 majority vote by state lawmakers to re-name a public building that has been named for a historical figure.