Commission proposes new names for bases that now honor Confederates

The new honorees would include a Black hero of World War I who died in poverty after being denied veterans benefits

A congressional commission has proposed changing the name of Fort Hood in Texas, which now honors a Confederate general, for Richard Cavazos, the first Hispanic four-star general. (Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
A congressional commission has proposed changing the name of Fort Hood in Texas, which now honors a Confederate general, for Richard Cavazos, the first Hispanic four-star general. (Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
Posted May 24, 2022 at 6:55pm

A congressional commission tasked with suggesting new names for military bases honoring Confederate veterans has proposed a list covering nine Army installations in the South.

The proposed changes include renaming Fort Benning in Georgia, which currently honors Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, to Fort Moore, after Army Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia.

The commission says it chose the Moores because they are “representative of millions of other military families throughout our history, who have often endured many travels and movements, putting the nation’s needs ahead of their personal preferences.” Moore served from 1945 to 1977, moving more than a dozen times in the United States and abroad.

The commission proposed changing the name of Fort Hood in Texas, which now honors Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, to Fort Cavazos, after Gen. Richard Cavazos, the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general, who served for more than 30 years into the 1980s.

The naming commission would rename Fort Polk in Louisiana, which honors Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk, in favor of Army Sgt. William “Henry” Johnson, a Black hero of World War I to whom President Barack Obama gave a posthumous Medal of Honor for his ferocious defense of a position in France’s Argonne Forest against a German attack in 1918. Johnson later died in poverty after he was denied the veterans benefits given to white soldiers.

The push to rename the bases gained steam in 2020 after nationwide protests of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Lawmakers created the naming commission in the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. It consists of eight former military leaders who have studied the issue of renaming military bases for over a year, narrowing a broader list of name possibilities they released earlier this year.

The issue of renaming the bases was a political flashpoint in 2020, as former President Donald Trump vetoed the fiscal 2021 NDAA, in part because of the naming commission. The Senate overrode him by a vote of  81-13 and the House by a vote of 322-87.

Lawmakers endorse changes

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., who oversaw the passage of the fiscal 2021 NDAA, said the proposed names “honor and celebrate the strength and diversity of the servicemembers who serve at each of these nine installations, as well as honoring military families and the values that serve as a cornerstone of our democracy.”

Maryland Democratic Rep. Anthony G. Brown, an Army veteran, said Tuesday that the names chosen “represent heroes who served our country honorably, defended our union and upheld our shared values.”

“I learned to fly helicopters at Ft. Rucker. I deployed to Iraq from Ft. Bragg, and I earned my jump wings at Ft. Benning. All these bases honored men who wouldn’t want me or other Black Americans serving in uniform, let alone in Congress,” Brown said in a news release. 

Another veteran in the House, Colorado Democrat Jason Crow, who was stationed at Fort Benning and Fort Bragg, said in a tweet that he served alongside soldiers “who had to live with the legacy of slavery and many of us didn’t feel like those posts represented their service and sacrifice. I’m glad that we are finally correcting this wrong.”

The names, chosen out of 3,670 suggestions from the public, are the product of visits to military installations and listening sessions with commanders and community leaders, according to a news release from the commission.

The commission’s final report on the renaming of the bases is due to Congress by Oct. 1. The law then directs the secretary of Defense to make the name changes by Jan. 1, 2024.

The full list of recommendations:

  • Fort AP Hill, Va., to Fort Walker, for Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
  • Fort Benning, Ga., to Fort Moore, for Hal and Julia Moore
  • Fort Bragg, N.C., to Fort Liberty
  • Fort Gordon, Ga., to Fort Eisenhower, for President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Fort Hood, Texas, to Fort Cavazos, for Richard Cavazos
  • Fort Lee, Va., to Fort Gregg-Adams, for Arthur Gregg and Charity Adams
  • Fort Pickett, Va., to Fort Barfoot, for Van Barfoot
  • Fort Polk, La., to Fort Johnson, for William Henry Johnson
  • Fort Rucker, Ala., to Fort Novosel, for Michael Novosel