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Fort Gordon Base Renamed to Fort Eisenhower, the Last Confederate Name

Fort Gordon Base Renamed to Fort Eisenhower, the Last Confederate Name

The U.S. Army recently completed renaming the last of nine military installations that had previously been named after figures associated with the Civil War-era Confederacy. This effort, initiated almost three years ago by a congressional order, reached its culmination when Fort Gordon, originally named after a Confederate lieutenant general, was officially redesignated as Fort Eisenhower in a ceremony held on the base's parade field. The new namesake, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, held the esteemed position of supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II and played a pivotal role in enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1957, marking a significant milestone in civil rights legislation.

This renaming ceremony symbolically marks the end of an era for the U.S. Army and these bases, many of which have had a longstanding military significance. The decision to eliminate Confederate associations from military installations was a bipartisan undertaking in Congress, triggered by nationwide racial unrest and protests, particularly in response to the death of George Floyd. The execution of this legislation fell under the responsibility of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first African American to hold this position, as part of a broader military commitment to promoting inclusivity.

The majority of the country's well-known military bases, along with some smaller and less recognized facilities, underwent renaming, primarily adopting the names of military heroes and historical figures. For example, Fort Cavazos in Texas, formerly known as Fort Hood, was renamed after a Texan who achieved the distinction of becoming the first Hispanic four-star general. In Georgia, Fort Moore, previously known as Fort Benning, was named after Hal Moore, a Vietnam War veteran, and his wife Julia, who made significant contributions to the military, particularly in developing casualty notification processes and survivor support teams.

An exception to the hero and historical figure naming pattern is Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg, which was previously named after a Civil War general who was often regarded as an ineffective leader.

In October 2022, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the importance of choosing names for these installations and facilities that both inspire those who reside there and accurately reflect the history and values of the United States.

To facilitate this renaming process, Congress established an independent Naming Commission that collaborated with the Pentagon to compile a list of contemporary military references to the Confederacy, a faction that fought to preserve the institution of slavery during the Civil War. The commission identified nine Army bases, several buildings commemorating Confederate officers, and a monument honoring Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The renaming of these bases occurred through a series of individual ceremonies throughout the year, concluding with the renaming of Fort Eisenhower.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the namesake of Fort Eisenhower, is celebrated not only for his military achievements but also for his role in desegregating the military. He was instrumental in deploying the 101st Airborne Division to ensure the safety of Black students during the desegregation of a historically white school in Little Rock, Arkansas, following a Supreme Court ruling declaring school segregation unconstitutional. Moreover, President Eisenhower's signature on the Civil Rights Act of 1957 laid the foundation for essential legal protections for minorities.

The original namesake of Fort Gordon, John Gordon, had been a plantation owner and a Confederate army general. Following the Civil War, he held various political positions in Georgia and is believed to have had a leadership role within the Ku Klux Klan, holding the rank of "Grand Dragon." His renaming is a testament to the Army's commitment to distancing itself from these controversial historical associations and embracing more inclusive and representative naming choices.