Following Dobbs decision, SCAD removes sign in front of building named for Justice Clarence Thomas

ajc.com

Credit: Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

While at the dedication of a Savannah College of Art and Design building named after him in 2010, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas praised his hometown's hospitality.

"You always long to go back to a place of comfort. The roots are here and the roots are very, very deep here," Thomas said in a 2010 Savannah Morning News article about the ceremony, which celebrated the newly christened Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation, located in the former convent where Thomas spent his early years attending school.

ajc.com

Credit: Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News

"I've had no bad trips to Savannah. It has always been warm to me."

That may no longer be the case, especially for a group of SCAD students who wants his name removed from SCAD's building, and any vestige of the justice scrubbed from the city.

The university has also removed the sign from the East Broad Street building, but has not responded to the News' emails asking for the reason why.

ajc.com

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

As of Thursday morning, an online petition calling for the Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation to be renamed has garnered more than 1,400 signatures.

First reported by WTOC, the petition cites Thomas' comments on the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization case, which repealed the constitutional right to abortion. Thomas indicated he would like to see a repeal of protections for gay marriage, access to contraception and privacy in the bedroom, calling the initial rulings that granted those rights "erroneous decisions."

He also has been accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, who testified against him during his 1991 confirmation hearings, and, more recently in 2016, by Alaska lawyer Moira Smith, who alleged that Thomas groped her in 1999

ajc.com

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

The petition writers do not want such a man honored on SCAD's campus.

"...for the tuition of the student body to support the maintenance and upkeep of a building named after a man who actively tries to rob the student body of their fundamental rights is unacceptable."

The petition mirrors one from 2018, which called for the building to be renamed. That petition was started by a SCAD student during the Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault in public testimony that closely resembled the Hill-Thomas interviews.

SCAD has not commented on the petition.

Missing sign prompts praise, rumor

Since at least Tuesday, the sign proclaiming the former Franciscan Convent as the Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation has been missing from its post in front of the 1906 red-brick building.

While some on Facebook took it as a sign that SCAD is protesting Thomas' comments in the wake of Dobbs, the university has issued no statement on the matter.

ajc.com

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Spokespeople for the university did not respond to multiple emails from the Morning News requesting comment.

No crimes have been reported either at the center, located at 439 E. Broad St., since the Dobbs' ruling, according to SCAD's daily crime log.

The building was named in dedication to Thomas in 2010. It's part of the former Catholic school and convent where Thomas spent much of his early life. Thomas' childhood connection to the building was the reason for the building naming.

Several buildings and public spaces are named for Thomas in Savannah. There is an I-95 interchange dedicated to him, and the local wing of the Carnegie Library is named after him. According to a 2011 article from the New York Times, Thomas also had a hand in creating the Pin Point Museum, a former oyster and crab cannery dedicated to the story of the local Gullah-Geechee community, where Thomas grew up along the Moon River.

ajc.com

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

The museum and library were projects of Dallas real estate mogul Harlan Crow, who has a long-established and ethically questionable friendship with Thomas. It is not known whether Crow paid for the SCAD building to be named in his friend's honor, but the New York Times reported that Crow's private plane escorted Thomas to and from the 2010 dedication ceremony.

Zoe covers growth and how it impacts communities in the Savannah area. Find her at znicholson@gannett.com, @zoenicholson_ on Twitter, and @zoenicholsonreporter on Instagram. 

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Following Dobbs decision, SCAD removes sign in front of building named for Justice Clarence Thomas