Naval Academy Honors President Jimmy Carter, Drops Confederate Name from Building

Naval Academy ceremony naming building for President Jimmy Carter.
Retired Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, at Mahan Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy, announces that the Naval Academy building housing the political science department and the languages and cultures department will be renamed “Carter Hall” for 1947 USNA graduate Jimmy Carter. (United States Naval Academy photo by Kenneth D Aston)

The engineering building at the U.S. Naval Academy has a new name: Carter Hall, honoring former lieutenant and Class of 1947 alumnus President Jimmy Carter.

In a ceremony last week, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced the change, noting that renaming Maury Hall for Carter is part of the process initiated under the congressionally mandated Naming Commission, which supported removing Confederate names from Defense Department buildings and installations.

Carter served in the Navy from 1946 to 1953 and was president from 1977 to 1981.

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"When Secretary [Lloyd] Austin directed us to implement the recommendations of the Naming Commission, he instructed us to give proud new names. Names that echo with honor, patriotism and history. Names that will inspire generations of service members to defend our democracy and our Constitution," Del Toro said during the renaming ceremony. "Today, on the Friday before Presidents Day weekend, that is exactly what we are doing. I can think of no one more worthy of this renaming than President Jimmy Carter."

The day after the Naval Academy's announcement, Carter's family said the 98-year-old former president has elected to stay at home and enter hospice care following several short hospital stays for metastatic melanoma. He has battled the disease since 2015.

Carter first studied engineering at Georgia Southwestern College. He then entered the Naval Academy in 1943, graduating with a bachelor's degree in science in 1946. A member of a class that was accelerated in response to World War II, he served as a surface warfare officer and, later, a submariner.

He was studying to become an engineering officer for a nuclear power plant and was also responsible for developing the training cycle for enlisted personnel in nuclear propulsion for the fast attack submarine Seawolf when his father died. Carter immediately resigned his commission to run his family's peanut farming business.

He entered politics two years later, running for the school board in Sumter County, Georgia. He later served in the Georgia State Senate and then as state governor. As U.S. president, he brokered a peace deal between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli President Menachem Begin, an agreement that earned them both a Nobel Peace Prize.

His tenure as president was clouded by the Iran hostage crisis, during which Islamic militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 American hostages, and a failed rescue attempt that killed eight U.S. service members. The captivity of 52 hostages for 444 days and economic woes contributed to his loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.

Following the presidency, Carter continued to distinguish himself as a negotiator for peace and an advocate for human rights. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

"We are here today to honor his [Carter's] legacy as one of our institution's most distinguished graduates. By naming this building in his honor, we not only recognize his great contributions, but ensure that his legacy will forever inspire our nation's future leaders," Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said during the ceremony.

Completed in 1907, the Beaux Arts-style Carter Hall was originally named for Matthew Fontaine Maury, considered the father of the science of oceanography. Maury served in the U.S. Navy for nearly 30 years, publishing the first global charts of winds and currents in 1847 and the first American oceanography textbook, "The Physical Geography of the Sea," in 1855.

In 1861, as the Civil War erupted, Maury, a Virginian, resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Navy. According to the Library of Congress, he initially was put in charge of coastal and river defenses and developing mine technologies to deter Union attacks. He spent much of the war abroad, lobbying for European support for the Confederacy.

Four Navy ships have been named Maury, as well as numerous college buildings across his native Virginia, the majority of which have been renamed. In 2022, Maury Hall at the University of Virginia, which is home to the school's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, was renamed in honor of former Navy Secretary and Republican Sen. John Warner.

The chemistry building at the Virginia Military Institute, where Maury served on the faculty for five years after the war, remains named Maury Brooke Hall.

The Naming Commission recommended that two other changes occur at the Naval Academy: renaming Buchanan House, the superintendent's residence, and its adjacent Buchanan Road.

During the ceremony for Carter Hall, Del Toro did not say when Buchanan Hall and Buchanan Road would be renamed.

Franklin Buchanan served in the U.S. Navy for roughly 45 years and was the first superintendent of the academy. He joined the Confederacy in 1861 and commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia -- the former USS Merrimack -- known for its battle against the USS Monitor at Hampton Roads, the first battle between two iron ships.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime

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