The controversy over renaming Benton Hall on the OSU campus is somewhat complicated. It seems to have gotten its moniker from the name of the county, but our county does bear the name of Sen. Thomas Hart Benton. He was indeed an advocate of slavery for most of his life, although he eventually decided that it was wrong and denounced it in 1849, which caused the end of his political career.
If we want to remove this taint from our community and the most prominent building on OSU’s campus, the only logical thing to do is change the name of the county. Other counties named Benton have done this, for the opposite reason. Benton County, Tennessee was originally named after the senator, but its citizens changed the name in 1852 after Sen. Benton maligned the institution of slavery. Fortunately, one of the founders of the county, who had apparently never shown any sympathy for slaves, was named David Benton; so they renamed the county after him. Benton County, Alabama wasn’t so lucky, but was equally determined. In the absence of another Benton to rename the county for, it settled on Calhoun in 1858 after the famous politician from South Carolina of their racial persuasion.
We need to set local historians on a hunt for some politically correct early settler named Benton for whom we can rename the county and avoid a lot of sign painting and chiseling.
Corvallis (March 12)