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Virginia Peninsula Community College announced this week that it would change the names of two halls, one named for Founding Father George Wythe and the other for Dr. Corbin Griffin, who served as a surgeon for Virginia Patriot soldiers.
“Virginia Peninsula Community College is renaming Griffin and Wythe halls, which are connected and function as one building, to Kecoughtan Hall. The name is a tribute to the Kecoughtan tribe, the early settlers of the land where VPCC’s Hampton campus is located,” VPCC announced on its website.
According to school official Steven Felker, the process of changing over the signs will be “gradual.” The school had formed a naming task force and gathered feedback from faculty, student government, and others on the proposed changes.
Wythe, who lived from 1726-1806, had a storied career in Virginia. As a law professor, he taught luminaries like Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, and John Marshall. In the years leading up to America’s war for independence, he served as a delegate to the Virginia House of Burgess, where he openly opposed the Stamp Act. During the war, he was a member of the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. He later attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and was influential in pioneering the field of constitutional law.
Like many Founding Fathers, Wythe had a complicated relationship with slavery. Although he owned slaves, he was recognized as an early proponent of abolition and worked throughout his life to free them. As a judge in Virginia, he ruled in favor of freeing slaves during an internal family dispute over the will of a Quaker landowner.
Less is known about Griffin, but historians know that he was a surgeon for Virginia’s revolutionary soldiers and spent time on a British prison ship outside Yorktown. He was also a Virginia state senator.
VPCC was previously named Thomas Nelson Community College. Nelson was another Revolutionary War hero and signer of the Declaration of Independence. His name was removed so the college could be more “welcoming, inclusive, and representative of our unique region,” according to school president Towuanna Porter Brannon.
Nelson was a member of the first Continental Congress in 1776 and 1779, led Virginian forces against the British from 1777 to 1781, and was governor of Virginia.