U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is open to changing the names of military bases honoring Confederate officials and commanders, according to various reports from Politico, Military.com, CNN and Axios, a high-profile pivot that could spark change in nearby Georgia.
Ten Army bases from Texas to Virginia are named after Confederate leaders – including two in the Peach State: the southwest-of-Augusta Fort Gordon, home to the branch's cyber center of excellence, and Fort Benning near the Alabama border.
Fort Gordon's namesake is John Brown Gordon, a general who played a role in many Civil War battles, Antietam and Gettysburg among them. Gordon, a Reconstruction opponent with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, was later elected to the U.S. Senate and, separately, to the Georgia governorship.
The potential for renaming comes as the U.S. and the broader international community are rocked by protests, demonstrations and demands for reform stirred by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis police custody late last month.
It also comes on the heels of news that the Marine Corps is banning the Confederate flag (related paraphernalia, like bumper stickers and mugs, too) at its installations.
"Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division – rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself," Gen. David H. Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, said in a June 3 statement. "The trust Marines place in one another on a daily basis demands this."
"The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps," reads related guidance shared on Twitter late last week.
The Confederate flag was removed from the S.C. Statehouse grounds in 2015.
The Army has previously resisted changing or updating base names. The tide could now be turning.
"Once the names of these bases are stripped of the obscuring power of tradition and folklore, renaming the installations becomes an easy, even obvious, decision," Petraeus wrote, mentioning Fort Gordon at least twice.
Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander-in-Chief Paul Gramling on Tuesday told the Aiken Standard he and his organization "highly disagree with them even looking at it or even considering changing those names, especially when you consider that these bases were named for these Confederate generals and officers after the war."
Simply put, Gramling said, renaming bases tied to Confederate leaders would be disrespectful.
A request for comment made to Fort Gordon's public affairs office was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.