Florida State University could be able to strip from its law-school building the name of a former Florida Supreme Court justice who left behind a racially charged legacy. The Senate passed legislation on Thursday that would allow FSU to rename a building that lawmakers named 46 years ago after Justice B.K. Roberts.
The Senate proposal would also require the university system’s Board of Governors to establish regulations for naming campus facilities moving forward.
The lone vote against the measure (SB 7076) was by Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who in the past said he is not in favor of the Legislature rewriting history. “You start down this path, and someone is going to be tearing down something that represents something to you. It may not be what it represents to others, but we are destroying our own artifacts of our own history,” Baxley said in February. FSU wants to strip Roberts’ name from the building largely because he wrote pro-segregation opinions in the 1950s.
The opinions, including one that refused to obey a U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow a black man to enroll in the University of Florida College of Law, prompted an FSU advisory panel last year to recommend removal of his name. The Senate bill will now be sent to the House, which doesn’t have a companion bill. Roberts served on the Supreme Court from 1949 to 1976 and died in 1999.