Naval Academy buildings tend to honor white, male members of military


Nimitz Library (Stacy Godfrey/US Naval Acadmey Photographer:)1 / 24

Although the Naval Academy touts its most diverse brigade this year, the buildings in which the midshipmen live, eat and learn hardly reflect the diversity of the students or the military as a whole.

Most of the buildings at the academy are named after now-deceased members of the Navy, with a few notable Marines sprinkled in. But with only a few exceptions, the buildings on the Yard reflect members of the military who were white and male.ADVERTISING

The Naval Academy has not announced any plans to build additional buildings or rename any of its existing ones. However, local leadership, including members of the academy’s Board of Visitors have called for the renaming of Maury Hall and Buchanan House because of links to the Confederacy. The academy supplied historical documents but declined to comment for this story.

The Department of Defense, as mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act, has set up a commission that will spend the next three years looking at military infrastructure with ties to the Confederacy.

At the academy, that likely means the commission will look at Maury Hall and Buchanan House, as well as any other buildings or roads that might bear names linked to Confederate sailors.

Maury Hall was named in 1915 by then Naval Academy superintendent Capt. W. F. Fullam, with a 1915 memorandum attributing the dedication to Matthew Fontaine Maury’s reputation in oceanography and meteorology. Buchanan House was named in 1976 at the recommendation of then-superintendent Kinnaird McKee, who recommended the name in honor of the academy’s first superintendent, Franklin Buchanan.

Both men resigned their commissions to serve in the Confederacy in the Civil War, and Maury lead Confederates who refused to surrender to Mexico after the war.

The Capital looked at 38 facilities at the academy, including sports fields and centers, to see for who each was named. The majority of buildings were named for white men, with only one building Hopper Hall, named for a woman.

Of the 38, 22 were named after 1960, with seven facilities of those named since 2000.

Hopper Hall, which opened in 2020, is the first building at any of the three military academies to be named for a woman. It was named for Rear Adm. Grace Brewster Murray Hopper, an American computer programing pioneer.

The Thornton D. and Elizabeth S. Hooper Foundation lent its name to the brigade sports complex, which includes the tennis center named after Maurice and Terri Tose, which was built before Hopper Hall, although neither was named after the women alone. Thomas Hooper was an early Navy aviator, while Maurice Tose is an academy graduate and tech entrepreneur.

The Wesley Brown Field House was named in 2008 after retired Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown, the first Black academy graduate. The building opened four years before Brown’s death in 2012.

The field house is the only one of the 38 buildings named after a Black man.

The majority of buildings are named after Navy or Marine service members who were deceased at the time of dedication, as it is Navy procedure to name infrastructure after people who have died, which is likely why no buildings at the academy have been named for President Jimmy Carter, the only president to have graduated from the academy.

However, according to the 2017 Naval operations instructions on naming streets and facilities, there are exceptions to the rule about naming infrastructure after those who are deceased. These “exceptional” circumstances likely allowed for the Wesley Brown Field House.

Hubbard Hall, named for Rear Adm. John Hubbard, was the first building at the academy to be named for a living person, according to a 2005-2006 Navy basketball information guide. Hubbard fought in the Spanish-American War, and the building opened in 1927, five years before Hubbard’s death.

Many of the buildings’ namesakes have connections to the Naval Academy, which was established in 1845, while most of the buildings are named after men who had leadership roles at the academy or attended the academy.

For example, Larson Hall, which houses the superintendent’s offices, was renamed in 2015 for Adm. Charles Larson, who served as superintendent twice.

Bancroft Hall, which serves as the dormitory for midshipmen, was named after George Bancroft, the secretary of the Navy who played a role in establishing the academy.

Mahan Hall, which was named in 1915 for Rear Adm. Thomas Mahan, once served as a library. Mahan graduated from the academy in 1859, making the building one of the few to be named after graduates from the academy’s first 15 years.

Mahan was the “obvious” choice for the library building, according to a memorandum from Feb. 1, 1915. Superintendent Capt. W. F. Fullam designated the library Mahan Hall on Jan. 25, 1915, according to Naval Academy Order. 56.

“The Library was named ‘Mahan Hall’ for obvious reasons, as Mahan is the most noted writer on naval subjects in the history of the Navy,” according to the memorandum that year.

While the buildings commemorate members of both the Navy and the Marines, the buildings heavily lean toward honoring members of the Navy. The first building to be named after a Marine was Lejeune Hall, named for Lt. Gen. John Lejeune, who served as the major general commandant of the Marine Corps, and according to the Marines, is considered “the greatest of all Leathernecks.”

Lejeune Hall was named in 1981, 41 years after Lejeune died.

Not all buildings at the academy are named after people. Memorial Hall and Alumni Hall, as examples, are not named after specific people. Memorial Hall honors Naval Academy graduates who have died in service of the country.

If the academy were to rename Maury Hall or Buchanan House, the superintendent, currently Vice Adm. Sean Buck, would send his recommendation for approval to the chief of naval operations, according to the 2017 instructions. Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is the Report For America corps member with the Capital Gazette, where she covers military affairs. Mongilio previously reported at The Frederick News-Post and the Carroll County Times. She earned a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from American University.