COLLEGE STATION, TX — The statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, with its pedestal inscribed with "Lawrence Sullivan Ross (1838-1898). Soldier, Statesman, Knightly Gentleman. Brigadier General, C.S.A. Governor of Texas and President of the A&M College" sits in front of the iconic Academic Building on the main campus of Texas A&M University. Ross is honored with the statue, placed there in 1918, for his successful efforts to save the A&M College from closure in the 1890s. His efforts during his life to improve higher education in Texas are legendary. There is also Sul Ross University in Alpine that is named after him.
In today's political environment, however, Ross' tenure in the Confederate States Army that concluded when Ross was 26 years old is enough to cancel him and his legacy. Student athletes at A&M, led by A&M's quarterback Kellen Mond, want the statue removed. Friday evening a protest of the student athletes led by Mond happened. Jimmy Hill, a former student at A&M, and several other "Old Ags" guarded the Ross statue during the protest. In Mr. Hill's own words, here is what happened:
I finally arrived home back in Round Rock just after midnight this morning. I slept for a while, but insomnia has overtaken me and I feel the urge to write about Friday evening’s activities and share some of the 110 photos I snapped at the Academic Building on the Texas A&M University campus.
Here’s the detailed report of what I witnessed.
I arrived on campus at the Memorial Student Center about 4:30 p.m. I met up with a former non-reg Aggie who had been a Navy Chief during the first Gulf War. We walked over to the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross together. Along the way we met up with an old Army Ag who graduated from A&M sometime in the mid-1950s after serving in the Korean War. When we arrived at the Academic Plaza we were greeted by several Old Ags who I estimate ranged in age from 55 to 85 years old. It was clear that many had been Vietnam War and Gulf War veterans.
As 5 p.m. rolled around and there were about a dozen of us there, but no protestors. As the hour wore on, rumors began to circulate that the protestors were all at Chili’s across from campus gathering up their crowd and whipping themselves into a frenzy A young man of south Asian heritage showed up and we convinced him to speak to us. We were very cordial towards him. As we were talking, a group of four athletes showed up. You could tell they were a bit confused because the protest crowd hadn’t shown up yet. We spoke to them in a very cordial manner and found out that three were football players who came to A&M from out of state and one was a track and field athlete from Texas, I think maybe Dallas.
At around 6 p.m., the main mob of “student-athlete” / Black Lives Matter protestors rounded the south end of the Academic Building shouting, “What do we want? Tear Sully down! When do we want it? Now!!”
I’m guessing there were about 75 to 125 of them. The old Ags got up, formed a cordon in front of Sully, and stood their ground against the mob. I think there were about six old Ags directly in front of Sully, four trying to have dialogue with the protestors, and me snapping pictures.
The initial leader of the mob was a young Black woman with a bullhorn who led the “What do we want?” chants several times. She handed the bullhorn over to Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond who began a recitation of his grievances.
Basically, Mond’s speech can be narrowed down to “Sul Ross was Governor, but also Confederate States Army. Sul Ross was President of the A&M College, but also CSA. Sul Ross murdered Native Americans. Sul Ross founded Prarie View A&M which gave Blacks an inferior education. Sul Ross may have done great things, but he was still CSA...”
It was clear that Mond’s only talking points were Sul Ross’s Texas Ranger service and his Confederate Army service. You can throw in complaints about the inferior level of education provided to students at Prairie View A&M, the evils of slavery and Jim Crow in America. It all boiled down to Mond’s definition of “systemic racism.”
During Mond’s speech, the really weird part started. Most of the mob stood in a tight group in front of Sully and the old Ag guardians. A couple broke off to the side to wave their signs about and a couple got into a dialogue with the Chief. A couple of the protesters who appeared to be football players then got right up in the faces of the old Ags, scowled at them, hunched their shoulders in an odd manner, and tried to intimidate the older gentlemen with their hard, scowling faces.
Their ploy to intimidate and provoke didn’t work. The veterans had faced the best Soviet built weaponry the Chinese, North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iraqis could throw at them. Those old Ags just stood there solid as a rock, and ignored the taunts and the intimidating behavior. One of the intimidators then pulled his shirt or hoodie off and, in his shirtless state, tried hard to make a war face and be provocative. This gambit also failed miserably. The Old Army Ags just stood there silently. The intimidation of a couple of young football players didn’t faze them in the least. They’d been through far worse.
At around 7:30 p.m. the mob began to slowly disperse. Then another strange occurrence happened. A very tall athlete began reaching between, over, and around the old Ags flicking pennies laid at Sully’s feet forward into the backs of the old Ag guardians. Once again, they ignored him. Finally, Mond showed a little bit of leadership as he urged the tall fellow to quit being so provocative.
By 8:30 p.m. the mob was gone and a small group of local Ags took over the job of protecting Sully. A night shift of about three old Ags were there because rumors were spreading around Bryan and College Station that the mob planned to come back sometime after midnight with ropes and chains to “pull Sully down.”