“Oh, shoot!” Says UWF Trustee to Wentworth KKK Ties
The University of West Florida (UWF) Board of Trustees barely decided to rename the T.T. Wentworth Jr Florida State Museum. The vote comes following revelations of the condemnable position Wentworth held as the leader of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
By a 5-4 vote, the Trustees decided that it would be best to not have the name of a prominent racist on their museum. Dissenting voices attempted to rehabilitate the image of Wentworth by reminding others that Wentworth was more than just a racist.
“One big old ‘oh shoot,’” is how one Trustee described Wenworth’s leadership of the KKK. Urging other members to weigh the participation in the KKK against the totality of Wentworth’s life, the Trustee hoped that the other members of the board would be persuaded by what was described as numerous “attaboys.”
Trustees Sherry Schneider, Jill Singer, Stephanie White, David Cleveland, and Suzanne Lewis voted for the name change. Lewis Bear, Jr., Robert Jones, Robert Sires, and Paul Hsu voted against.
Three more votes are required to complete the name change of the museum in downtown Pensacola.
Mr. Jones raised another argument to try and delay the vote to June. He expressed concern that the museum could face legal hardships as a result of the decision despite legal counsel assuring otherwise. Jones also hoped that in the additional time, the trustees could more fully consider the full scope of Wentworth’s life to assess how much his reputation should be impugned by the fact that he was a racist.
“My dad who was a historian his whole life … once said to me, ‘Robert, it takes an awful lot of attaboys to overcome an ‘oh shoot,’” Mr. Jones said. “The life of T.T. Wentworth seemed to have a great big old ‘oh shoot’ and that’s his membership and leadership in the Pensacola Ku Klux Klan.”
More firm in her renunciation of the association with Wentworth, Trustee Sherry Schneider said, “T.T. Wentworth was not only a in the Ku Klux Klan for political reasons but served as a leader in that organization and firmly supported the goal of that organization and I just do not think we can support maintaining that name as the University of West Florida when it’s antithetical to everything we stand for.”
She continued, “To defer that choice sends a message to our students and the community that we are not sensitive to the issues of inclusion.”
The Internal Improvement Trust Fund will now consider whether to move forward with the proposed name change.