Renaming of Morgan stadium fought Hughes family calls plan an 'insult'

November 16, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

A plan to rename Morgan State University's football stadium in honor of former coach Earl C. Banks, who died last month, has drawn protests from the family of the man for whom the stadium is named.

Since 1937, Hughes Stadium has honored William Alfred Carroll Hughes, a prominent black Methodist minister and Morgan supporter who died in 1940.

It ought to stay that way, family members say.

"This is an insult to the Hughes family," said Charles Evans Hughes Sr., a nephew of Bishop Hughes who lives in Catonsville.

Although it was Mr. Banks who led the Morgan football team to its greatest success in the 1960s and 1970s, it was Bishop Hughes who as a student introduced football to Morgan, organizing a team that played in a vacant lot near the college's old site on Edmondson Avenue before he graduated in 1897.

"It's because of him that Morgan even has football," said Alfreda R. Hughes, the bishop's granddaughter, who lives in Columbia.

Bishop Hughes became a Methodist minister in Baltimore and elsewhere but always kept strong ties to Morgan, which was a Methodist institution until it was purchased by the state in 1939.

He spoke at many campus occasions and often gave pep talks to the football squad at halftime.

Bishop Hughes "was a part of Morgan. He carried Morgan's torch and served it in many ways," then-Morgan President Dwight O. W. Holmes said at the bishop's Baltimore funeral, which was attended by more than 2,000 people.

His only son, William A. C. Hughes Jr., helped negotiate the transfer of Morgan from the Methodists to the state and was a leading civil rights attorney for many years before his death in 1966.

Despite that history, alumni and friends of Mr. Banks began clamoring to rename the stadium in his honor soon after his heart attack-related death in a car crash Oct. 27, according to Morgan President Earl S. Richardson.

Dr. Richardson obliged, announcing at a memorial service for Mr. Banks on Nov. 1 that he would present a resolution to Morgan's Board of Regents to rename the 10,000-seat stadium when a $6 million face lift is completed in 1995. The announcement was met with a loud ovation.

"There are a lot of people who love Coach Banks who don't remember Bishop Hughes at all," Miss Hughes said. "To pit a real popular coach and all of his fans up against history which nobody remembers, although they should, is really unfair."

Dr. Richardson said yesterday that he would hold off on the resolution until he meets with members of the Hughes family, as well as alumni who support the change to an Earl Carey Banks Stadium.

"The objective is not to dishonor anyone but to pay due respect to a legend," Dr. Richardson said.

Kia Roach, a junior English major from Baltimore who discussed the issue during a class last week, said abandoning the Hughes name would be inappropriate.

"To take that away from him, I don't think that's fair," Ms. Roach said. "What if someone else dies in 10 years, maybe they'll name it after him."

Although it is unusual for a college to remove the name of an important alumnus from a campus building, it does happen occasionally.

Appalachian State University in North Carolina, for example, renamed William J. Conrad Stadium in honor of former coach Kidd Brewer in 1988.

Mr. Conrad, who was deceased and had little if any family to object, was honored instead by having a floor of the business building named for him.

Such a switch might be in the works at Morgan, but Dr. Richardson, apparently smarting from criticism from members of the Hughes family, said he did not want to discuss any solutions before talking to them.

"I think anything is possible," he said.

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