Fort Polk’s potential new name introduced to Congress
Published 5:58 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Fort Polk may soon become Fort Johnson if Congress accepts the recommendations submitted by the Renaming Commission this week.
On Tuesday, officials tasked with renaming nine Army bases whose original names held ties to the confederacy submitted their recommendations for new names to replace them with.
Fort Polk’s new name would honor Sgt. William Henry Johnson, an African American Medal of Honor recipient from North Carolina who served the Army during World War I and whose bravery was not honored until 2015.
Upon releasing the names suggested for the installations, the Naming Commission’s chair, retired US Navy Admiral Michelle J. Howard released a public statement, saying the Commission sought to find names that would be “inspirational to the soldiers and civilians who serve on our Army posts, and to the communities who support them”.
“We realized quickly that we had more heroes than we did bases to name. And we were overwhelmed with the greatness of the American Soldier – from those who gave their entire adult lives to the Army, to those who sacrificed themselves in valorous acts. We were reminded that courage has no boundaries by man-made categories of race, color, gender, religion, or creed,” Howard’s statement went on to read.
Howard said the Commission set a goal to inspire today’s soldiers and local communities with names or values that hold “meaning”, and that they sought out names and values that underpin the core responsibilities of the military.
“We wanted names and values that evoke confidence in all who serve. Confidence that by emulating those whose names are on the installations, we too can rise to every challenge, overcome every obstacle, achieve excellence, and, if necessary, sacrifice our lives for this country and her people,” Howard stated.
The full list of suggestions from the Commission includes renaming Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia to Fort Walker, after a female doctor who treated soldiers in the Civil War; Fort Hood would become Fort Cavazos, in honor of the first Latino to reach the rank of a four-star general in the Army; Fort Gordon may become Fort Eisenhower after the former U.S. President and Army general; Fort Rucker would become Fort Novosel, honoring Medal of Honor recipient Michael Novosel; and Fort Pickett in Virginia would be named after Van Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient of Native American descent.
Fort Benning in Georgia would become Fort Moore, honoring both Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia Moore. Lt. Gen. Moore is considered a pioneer in the Air Cavalry and his story was depicted in the “We Were Soldiers” book and film, while his wife helped to improve the casualty notification system and family support networks.
Fort Lee in Virginia would also recognize two individuals, with the panel suggesting the installation be renamed Fort Gregg-Adams to honor Arthur Gregg, a former three-star general involved in logistics and the only individual suggested in the renaming that is still living, and for Charity Adams, the first African-American woman to be an officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
Fort Bragg would be the only installation of the nine to not be named after an individual and instead would become Fort Liberty.
The Naming Commission was created in 2020 and tasked by Congress with the duty of selecting the new names for the nine installations. Over the course of the past two years, the panel met with leaders at each installation and accepted name suggestions from the public. Overall, the Commission said it received more than 34,000 name suggestions that were then narrowed down to 3,670 and then to a final 100 earlier this year.
A final report is due to Congress by Oct. 1 that will also include the costs of removing and changing the names.
Leesville Mayor and chairman of Fort Polk Progress Rick Allen told the American Press last year that he believes the costs of renaming Fort Polk alone could reach millions.
“This will include changing signs on buildings to things as simple as stationary items that say Fort Polk; it will be a very large undertaking,” Allen stated.
The Naming Commission is still considering new names for two Navy ships, the USS Chancellorsville and USNS Maury, as well as hundreds of building and street names across other military installations that are also believed to commemorate Confederate soldiers.
The changes are expected to go into effect no later than Jan. 1, 2024.