Every Texas A&M student knows about Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross. He was a former Texas governor, former Texas A&M University president and a former Confederate general. On A&M's campus, Ross' legacy lives on in a statue in the Academic Plaza.
A&M students have been petitioning the university for years to remove the statue of Ross from campus because of his problematic past as a Confederate general and murderer of Comanche women and children. JP, a current student at A&M, who declined to give us his last name out of fear of getting doxxed, even took the issue to TikTok when he made a one-minute video about Ross' past. Not only that, he warned viewers his TikTok would ruin childhoods because Sulley, the big blue monster from Pixar's Monsters Inc., was supposedly named after Ross. (The Observer could not confirm this.)
"After (Ross) died while serving as president, they erected this statue of him, and then they made it this cute little tradition to put little pennies on him for good luck during exams," JP says during his TikTok, "and then they donate it to charity, which is all well and good, but it doesn't excuse everything else that he did.
"Sulley is named after a murderer," JP says as he ends his TikTok.
Walter Buenger, a historian of Texas, who has previously taught at A&M and now teaches at the University of Texas, says Ross led a raid against the Comanches in which the raiders killed Indian women and children.
"It was more like a massacre than a battle," Buenger says.
Ross was also a Confederate general.
"In a way, it's somewhat ironic that at a school that prides itself on its military traditions and its patriotism, the Confederacy in a huge way was trying to destroy the United States, and so people considered the Confederate military, especially Confederate officers in high ranking .... considered them at the time traitors," Buenger says.
As a politician, Buenger says Ross advocated for the removal of any African Americans from any position of political control.
"He did seem to be in sympathy with the white supremacy campaign to remove African Americans from local political offices and local control across some areas of Texas, where Blacks were majority," Buenger says.
A&M has a statue of Ross because of his work to stabilize A&M, Texas' first public university. Ross also used his political connections to secure funding for A&M and Prairie View A&M, Buenger says. According to A&M's website, Ross "is often credited as the embodiment of Aggie spirit and tradition," and "legendary efforts to keep the college open."
A&M did not reply to our request for comment.
Buenger and JP believe Ross' statue should be given context. While it might be fair to recognize the good he did for the university, noting his racist past is also important.
"(A&M is) looking for all these reasons to keep it instead of recognizing, 'Hey, there are some students who are uncomfortable and maybe instead of making it a highlight of the campus tour that maybe it might be better suited for a museum,'" JP says. "It doesn't even have a plaque or anything that says, 'Hey, we recognize that this is a very controversial person.' It just says his name at the bottom."
Samuel de León, a graduate of A&M, says he believes the statue should be taken down but doesn't believe A&M will remove it.
"I think A&M is really big on traditions and values, and one of the symbols of that is Sully, like the same with the Aggie ring," de León says.
Last week, a University of North Texas student started a petition to change the name of its music studies hall, named after Stan Kenton, who was accused of rape by his own daughter. JP believes many Texas universities will have to deal with this kind of issue.
"We need to look at the good and the bad whenever it comes to any historical figure and not paint someone with a broad brush," JP says.
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