Baylor University Releases Independent Report of Commission on Historic Campus Representations

March 23, 2021

The full, unedited report includes key findings on University's historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy, as acknowledged in June 2020, and recommendations for consideration by Board of Regents

University announces plans to erect statues of Baylor's first Black graduates, Rev. Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Mrs. Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67, in front of Tidwell Bible Building

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

WACO, Texas (March 23, 2021) – Baylor University today released the full independent and unedited report of the 26-member Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which was charged by the Baylor Board of Regents with independently reviewing and evaluating the historical record and context of the University and its early leaders solely related to slavery and the Confederacy. The Commission's report outlines recommendations for consideration by the Board regarding communicating the complete history of the University and its evaluation of all statues, monuments, buildings and other aspects of the campus within this historical context.

The institution will continue to be known as Baylor University, while the statue of namesake Judge R.E.B. Baylor will maintain its current location on Founders Mall. The report is publicly available at www.baylor.edu/diversity/commission.

Baylor also announced plans today to erect statues in recognition of trailblazing graduates Rev. Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Mrs. Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67, in front of Tidwell Bible Building, commemorating the two friends’ mutual standing as Baylor’s first Black graduates who helped integrate the University.

Historical Findings, Recommendations of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations

The Commission on Historic Campus Representations – comprised of 26 diverse individuals representing Baylor alumni, Regents, faculty, students and staff – was established as part of a unanimously passed resolution on racial healing and justice by the Board of the Regents on June 25, 2020, that acknowledged the University's historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy.

After officially accepting the Commission's final report at its February meeting, the Board charged the University Administration with developing a proposed action plan regarding the recommendations, all of which will be evaluated and considered thoroughly, as feasible and in accordance with existing Board policies and procedures.

"Today we find ourselves, as a Christian community and an institution of higher learning, with an important opportunity as we give consideration to the thoughtful observations and recommendations found within the final, independent report of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations," said Board Chair Mark Rountree, B.B.A. '86, M.T.A. '87, of Dallas. "I join my fellow Regents and President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., in sincere appreciation for the 26-member Commission’s tireless and noble work on behalf of the University and under the extraordinary leadership of co-chairs Regent Alicia D.H. Monroe, M.D., Dean of Music Gary Mortenson, D.M.A, and Associate Athletics Director Walter Abercrombie, B.S. '82, M.S.Ed. '92. This 90-plus-page document — being the result of a prayerful, scholarly and collaborative approach over an intensive, five-month period of time — is truly a gift to Baylor University.

"As we begin our important work in response to the Commission’s report, let me state that we are proud of the name of Baylor University. As you will read in the Commission’s report, Judge Baylor was not a perfect man. As a slaveholder, he engaged in a practice we know to be sinful and abhorrent. We do not justify or downplay the evil of slavery. With our University, Judge Baylor established the foundation for hundreds of thousands of students — which now include all races and creeds — to receive a unique educational experience that combines academic excellence and a Christian commitment. We will continue to recognize Judge Baylor for the founding of Baylor University, just as we commit to presenting a more complete history of the University," Rountree said.

"The resulting actions the Board and University ultimately will take will be guided solely by our Christian mission, anchored singularly in the Gospel’s pattern for redemption and reconciliation, and directed at fostering an environment through which racial equality is inextricably linked to our mission and in which students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of color know they are valued and loved throughout the Baylor community," Rountree added.

Key Historical Findings

Over the summer and fall, the Commission carried out its work, reviewing the complete historical record and context of the University and its founders and early leaders, including historical connections to slavery and the Confederacy.

Ahead of the release of the Commission's full report, the University held three public Baylor Conversation Series events via Zoom – “Perspectives on Our History.” Similar to the historical study undertaken by the Commission, the first two panel discussions featured distinguished experts, who provided context about slavery in the United States, in Texas and among Texas Baptists during the time of Baylor’s founding in the mid-1800s. The final panel was moderated by President Livingstone and featured Chair Rountree and the Commission's co-chairs, who discussed the process, historical findings and the framework for the Commission's recommendations.

Several key historical facts that previously have not been acknowledged formed the basis for the Commission’s recommendations:

  • Baylor’s founders and early leaders, including trustees and presidents, were slaveholders. Several continued to justify and support slavery even after the Civil War. The records of the enslaved and their descendants are difficult to find. The Commission references these as the “unknown enslaved.”
  • Judge R.E.B. Baylor, the University’s namesake, was a slaveholder. Enslaved persons formed a significant portion of his wealth in 1860. He did not serve in the Confederate army, but he did continue serving as a judge in Texas during the Civil War.
  • In 1843, founders William Tryon and James Huckins were slaveowners while serving as employees of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. After tensions between Baptists in the north and south over slavery reached an impasse, the Southern Baptist Convention was established in 1845, and Tryon and Huckins were appointed by the Domestic Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1846. Huckins left Texas in 1859 and was appointed a chaplain in the Confederate army in 1863.
  • Rufus Burleson was a slaveholder and enlisted in the Confederate army, serving as a chaplain. As president of Baylor (1851-1861) and subsequently Waco University, he encouraged faculty and male students over 18 to join the fight against what he called “Abolition despotism.” He was a prominent supporter of the “Lost Cause” movement following the war.

Recommendation Major Themes

In addition to proposing a plan for documenting and communicating the complete history of Baylor, the Commission was charged with evaluating all statues, monuments, buildings and other aspects of campus in reference to the original intentions behind their physical location, placement and naming and provide observations for consideration. The Commission's recommendations on many of the historic representations provide multiple options for resolving the University's connection to slavery and the lack of historical context or narrative to tell the complete history of Baylor.

In developing its recommendations, the Commission was guided by these principles:

  • Assessments of historic representations should include the complete historical context of individuals’ lives and the intentions for honoring them with monuments and other representations.

  • Recommendations should seek opportunities for redemptive and inclusive actions.

  • Recommendations should demonstrate the value, dignity and equality of every human being as created and intended by God.

  • Recommendations should reflect Baylor’s commitment to speak the truth in love and to show true love by our actions.

  • Recommendations should offer actionable items both in the short term, to illustrate a commitment to change, and in the long term, to transform Baylor’s campus in a manner that tells the full story of Baylor’s history and honors all who contributed to the institution’s success.

  • Recommendations should bring Baylor closer to alignment with key elements of the University’s vision as articulated in Illuminate, specifically with regard to Christian Environment, wherein it states that our Baptist founders sought to establish an institution of higher learning that would “meet the needs of all ages to come.”

  • Recommendations should reflect a hope for the future — that all who find their home at Baylor University feel connected to its past and responsible for its future.

The major themes arising from the Commission's recommendations include:

  • While acknowledging the intent of the installation of monuments in Founders Mall, including the statue of Judge Baylor, was in celebration of the vision of the founders and first trustees to establish a Christian institution, the full history about these individuals is absent and should be told. No recommendation was made to remove the statue of Judge Baylor.

  • Others who contributed to the successful founding of the University, including the unknown enslaved, are not memorialized in any way, and it is recommended by the Commission that this be rectified with a new installation.

  • Burleson Quadrangle, a prominent gathering place for the Baylor Family, should be renamed and a more inclusive name be given to the space. The monument to Rufus Burleson should be relocated to a less prominent location on campus.

  • The University should create an intentional honoring of people of color who have contributed to Baylor’s history with statues or other installations on campus.

  • Markers and displays at the historic sites at Independence (the initial Baylor campus) should be updated to incorporate the full history of the University. In addition, Baylor’s Line Camp experience should incorporate more complete information about Baylor’s founders and early leaders when students are visiting the Independence site.

  • The University Mace should be retired and, if needed, a new mace fashioned in a way that reflects the rich diversity of Baylor.

"The Commission’s assessments and recommendations are grounded in the belief that racism in all its forms is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ and is therefore also inconsistent with Baylor’s Christian mission," the report states. "Additionally, the group’s recommendations are intended to provide possibilities for taking significant actions, in a spirit of humility and with a goal of healing, that will create a physical environment on campus that tells the complete Baylor story, thereby advancing the cause of racial justice and creating a lasting legacy for future generations of Baylor Bears."

"I am deeply grateful for the sacred work of the Commission, whose members considered and embraced Baylor’s Christian mission while also taking great care and concern for the University’s history as they discerned recommendations about how best to communicate and reflect the complete history of Baylor University," President Livingstone said. "We believe that by forthrightly and fully addressing Baylor’s history, our continued journey of redemption and reconciliation will lead to a season of renewal and new beginnings on our campus as we take measures to address all historical aspects of the Baylor story and celebrate the value of all members of the Baylor Family in fulfillment of our Christian mission and in keeping with our Christian witness."

Statues in recognition of Baylor's first Black graduates

Baylor also announced today plans to erect statues in recognition of trailblazing graduates Rev. Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Mrs. Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67, in front of Tidwell Bible Building, where they, like today's students, took classes in history and religion as part of Baylor’s undergraduate core curriculum and also walked along the street where the Judge Baylor statue is located. The statues of Gilbert and Walker will commemorate the two friends’ mutual standing as Baylor’s first Black graduates who helped integrate Baylor.

"The late Rev. Gilbert and Barbara Walker are deserving of additional and more prominent recognition for not only their place in Baylor University’s history, but also their lasting impact on who we are today and who we chose to be as an institution of higher learning in the future," President Livingstone said. "The presence of two new statues honoring people of color on the Baylor campus will contribute to a more complete telling of the Baylor story and honors all who contributed to the institution’s success across the ages. The new outdoor statues also will create a highly visible, welcoming and affirming message that all members of the Baylor Family are valued in fulfillment of the University’s Christian mission."

In both their personal lives and professional callings, Gilbert and Walker exemplify the Baylor spirit of leadership and service.

In 2007, Rev. Gilbert was honored with a memorial lamppost outside the Bill Daniel Student Center, and in 2013, Baylor created the Robert Gilbert Outstanding Advocate Award to be given annually to one student who exhibits a true passion for and awareness of a social justice issue. In 2017, Baylor recognized Walker with the Medal of Service for Contributions to Christian Ministry, which is awarded to individuals for dedication to advancing their chosen fields and making significant impact in our world.

Most recently, in July 2020, the University created the Most recently, in July 2020, the University created the Trailblazer Scholars Program – a scholarship program designed to recognize the importance of fostering diversity and mutual respect at Baylor University – with its first cohort of students in fall 2021 named in honor of Gilbert and Walker. – a scholarship program designed to recognize the importance of fostering diversity and mutual respect at Baylor University – with its first cohort of students in fall 2021 named in honor of Gilbert and Walker.

The University expects to review sculptors and initiate design proposals in early summer and select a final sculptor in early fall.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?