Sully statue provides history and controversy to Texas A&M campus

Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 6:52 PM CDT
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The statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross has been on campus since 1919 but recent events have some Aggies asking whether his role as president of the university outweighs his ties with the confederacy.

To many Aggies, Sul Ross is the reason the campus exists today.

“It was a very touchy, touchy time in the late 1800s, and there was an attempt on the legislature to close Texas A&M. He personally went to the legislature and stopped it,” said John Adams, a local historian.

Ross joined the Confederate Army in 1860 and became one of the youngest Confederate Generals. He served as sheriff of McLennan County and the 19th governor of Texas before becoming president of the university.

Rebecca Hankins, a curator at Texas A&M’s Cushing Library, says Ross’ time in the military did, in fact, define who he was.

“The reason why people admire him was because of his military prowess. That’s how he got his recognition to become governor, to become president of Texas A&M,” said Hankins.

Adams believes Sul Ross’ role as a Confederate General doesn’t overshadow his work after the Civil War.

“He pardoned more African Americans than all the previous governors combined. He protected the budget of all the African American schools, but throughout this period he continued to do things for education in Texas,” said Adams.

That’s why Adams believes the statue remains on campus.

“The focus of the legislature and the intent was to show what he did as a civilian, an educator, and a leader in the state of Texas,” said Adams.

Hankins says she believes his story deserves to be told but in a way that’s more respectful to people of color on campus.

“We have a building that people can come and get information from. It could be housed there and then contextualized to talk about all of his history, not just the history we want to know about,” said Hankins.

There are competing petitions right now about the future of that statue. More than 40,000 people have weighed in on either side.

When this came up in 2018, System Chancellor John Sharp said the statue would remain on campus forever.