WINCHESTER — The Frederick County Board of Supervisors doesn’t want Lord Fairfax Community College to change its name.
On Wednesday night, the board voted 5-1 to send a letter to the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges objecting to the idea.
In February, following six months of study and discussions, the LFCC board voted 9-3 to seek a new name that better reflects the institution and its mission. Its namesake, Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, was an 18th-century slave owner who came to America from England, eventually settling in White Post in Clarke County. He owned more than 5 million acres in the region and was a friend and mentor to a young George Washington. At the time of his death, Lord Fairfax owned at least 97 enslaved persons. He also remained loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War. He died in 1781 and is buried at Christ Episcopal Church in Winchester.
The review was prompted by a resolution passed by the State Board for Community Colleges in July 2020 asking all Virginia community colleges to revisit their names. This request coincided with institutions across the country reconsidering names with racist ties in the wake of protests following the May 25 murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a former white Minneapolis police officer.
LFCC’s name was chosen in 1969 by its then-board as a nod to the region’s colonial history. The college opened in 1970 in Middletown in Frederick County.
Shawn Graber, who represents the Back Creek District on the Frederick County Board of Supervisors, introduced Wednesday night’s motion to oppose renaming LFCC. He noted that the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors has done something similar.
A new name has not yet been chosen for the college.
Graber called the name change “unwarranted.”
“[Lord Fairfax] was very instrumental in this community in giving out land grants to this community when it was first developed,” he said. “[He] has a rich history here and I believe if we were to want to go down this rabbit hole, we would also want to rename the state of Virginia, multiple other flags and names of cities across the commonwealth, along with many other things.”
He added that changing the college’s name will be a costly undertaking and that the money would be better spent on serving the educational needs of its students. He said two LFCC board members — Brandon Monk and Michael Lake, who also serve on the Frederick County School Board — were among the LFCC board members who opposed the name change.
Graber suggested that the supervisors discuss withholding funds from LFCC over the renaming.
Frederick County has given the college approximately $81,000 a year for the last four fiscal years, according to county Public Information Officer Karen Vacchio. The college has said those funds support scholarships for Frederick County students. While not measurable by locality, funds also support activities of the College Board, faculty and staff development, commencement, student outreach and support services, and other student success initiatives.
Gainesboro Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy said he would support withholding money if LFCC proceeds with the name change. He called the college “a great institution” and said he would not want county taxpayer dollars to help finance the renaming “simply because there’s a fad right now in changing names that some people aren’t particularly comfortable with or they don’t like.”
Red Bud Supervisor Blaine Dunn said: “You can always find something wrong with somebody. Nobody’s perfect.” Shawnee Supervisor David Stegmaier thanked Graber making the motion.
But Stonewall Supervisor Judith McCann-Slaughter raised some concerns.
“As opposed to holding money, we could restrict the funds as opposed to entirely withholding the funds,” McCann-Slaughter suggested. “My concern with that is that we may be depriving education to our Frederick County citizens.”
Graber countered that giving money to LFCC — even for a restricted purpose — could free up funds for the college to change its name on uniforms, signs and other items. He said it would be a “shuffle board of funds.”
Supporting the motion were Graber, McCarthy, Dunn, McCann-Slaughter and Stegmaier. Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. voted against it. He did not elaborate. Opequon Supervisor Bob Wells abstained, saying, “I don’t feel it’s the role of the Board of Supervisors to go on record supporting or not supporting such changes.”
In other business, the board voted 6-1 to approve its consent agenda, which approved:
A motion to revise the county’s holiday policy so that any new federal and state holidays would automatically be observed by the county — a move that would make Juneteenth a paid county holiday. The revision eliminates an enumerated list of county holidays.
Appropriating $182,000 so that the county’s Fire & Rescue Chief can purchase two used fire apparatus to serve as reserve units for the entire system.
Granting the Sheriff’s Office $859,500 to purchase 15 vehicles and associated equipment.
Graber was the lone dissenting vote. He said after the meeting that he objected to the $859,500 Sheriff’s Office expenditure.
Although he voted in favor of the consent agenda, Dunn said that he thinks the state legislature should consider a holiday other than Juneteenth to celebrate the end of slavery. He considers Juneteenth a Texas holiday specifically dealing with the emancipation of slaves in Texas — not all slaves nationwide. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, and told enslaved people there that they were free. Dunn thinks Virginia should observe emancipation either Dec. 6, the date the 13th Amendment was ratified, or Dec. 18, when the 13th Amendment was proclaimed.