Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Junior says he supports calls to change the name of Lynchburg. The city was named after its founder, John Lynch, but Falwell says it is too often thought to derive from the act of lynchings. An on-line petition is calling upon Lynchburg leaders to change the city’s name; Falwell says he has no preference among some of the suggestions.
NEWS RELEASE: In the wake of an online petition last month to change the name of Lynchburg, Va., where most of the Liberty University campus is located, Liberty President Jerry Falwell said he would back a name change even though the term was not derived from the act of lynching.
“I personally support changing the name of the city of Lynchburg. It’s been an embarrassment to Liberty University ever since we started,” Falwell said. “That was one of the reasons Liberty’s original name was changed from Lynchburg Baptist College to Liberty Baptist College in 1976.”
He explained that people who do not know that the city was named for its founder, John Lynch, automatically think the name has a negative connotation. He said a name change would permanently eliminate any stigma.
“So many people from Liberty have told me that when they travel and tell people where they’re from, they’re often asked, ‘Why in the world would you want to live in a racist place like that?’ It’s because people take ‘lynch’ and they think it means there were lynchings here, when the truth is it was named after a Quaker.”
City historians say John Lynch was a Quaker and many Quakers had to leave the state because they were hated for refusing to fight the British in the Revolutionary War.
Falwell said he is indifferent to any new names that have been suggested for the city.
The online petition to Lynchburg City Council was started last month by Lynchburg resident Daisy Howard.
“The name of a city should not have such violent, racist, and horrifying connotations,” Howard writes in the petition’s description. “I understand it was named after a man named John Lynch, but why do we insist on explaining that when people react to its name poorly (understandably so)? Why do we insist on defending it? We understand the power in the word. We need to erase the power that word holds over the connotation to our city.”
The petition has garnered over 5,300 signatures, and Falwell said he plans to sign it as soon as possible.