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Winthrop: No charges filed in case of hanging black figures outside Tillman Hall

This figure was one of “numerous” objects campus police say they found hanging in a tree in a vandalism case at Winthrop University’s Tillman Hall.
This figure was one of “numerous” objects campus police say they found hanging in a tree in a vandalism case at Winthrop University’s Tillman Hall. WSOC-TV

Winthrop University campus police announced Friday that no criminal charges are being filed at this time in the case of hanging black figures found in a tree outside Tillman Hall.

The school said the investigation has been administratively closed “until further information is received.”

“If new evidence is presented, the case will be re-opened to pursue criminal charges,” said a statement from the university.

Winthrop officials found “numerous” black stockings last month, filled with dirt and mulch, hanging from a tree by Tillman Hall.

On the sign with the building’s name, a sign was taped that read “Tillman’s Legacy,” police said.

The display was intended as a protest against the Tillman name on Winthrop’s main administration building, Winthrop officials say.

Around 70 Winthrop students and faculty protested in September to raise support for renaming the building.

Benjamin Tillman, South Carolina’s governor in the early 1890s and a U.S. senator until his death in 1918, was instrumental in both founding Clemson University and establishing Winthrop College as a teaching school for women. He also was famous for his violent rhetoric against the state’s black population as a supporter of lynch mobs.

“It’s a symbol of hatred, prejudice and white supremacy,” said Samantha Valdez, a graduate student with the Student Socialists Union. “For us to keep up our diversity on campus, we need to change these elements on campus.”

Some students and faculty members have called for changing the name of the building to Main Building – its name before 1962.

Officials say the school alone cannot change the name of Tillman Hall. The South Carolina Heritage Act, passed in 2000, prevents anyone from changing the name of any street, bridge, structure or park that has been “dedicated in memory of, or name for, any historic figure or historic event.”

Changing the state law requires a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly.

Clemson University also has a building named in Tillman’s honor and a statue of Tillman sits on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

This story will be updated throughout the day.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham

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