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MSU Billings seeking to rename McMullen Hall after namesake's racist comments uncovered

McMullen voiced support for Hitler and eugenics
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Posted at 3:15 PM, Mar 03, 2022

BILLINGS - MSU Billings is reviewing the name of its main administration building, McMullen Hall, in light of recent comments unearthed by its namesake in historical documents supporting eugenics and Adolph Hitler.

The building is named after Dr. Lynn McMullen, who was hired in 1927 as the first president of the school, then called the Eastern Montana Normal School.

University officials said in a Thursday news release that newspaper articles quoting McMullen in 1935 sparked the review. In articles provided by MSUB from The Billings Gazette and The Missoulian, McMullen was quoted praising Hitler to a graduating class in Colorado.

"I abominate Hilter's general policies but if I am correctly informed in regard to his campaign for sterilization of the unfit, I prophesy that Germany will do more for the uplift of her society in the next 50 years, through sterilization, than we have done in 85 years through public education," McMullen said in the article.

"America has been the melting pot," he continued. "Undoubtedly she has received many fine citizens from the old world. But she has also been the sewer for its dregs. The upper classes have always paid some attention to breeding... On the other hand the procreation of the unfit has been promiscuous and prolific."

At the time, Hitler had begun to remilitarize Germany in preparation of the invasion of Poland in 1939, launching World War II four years later. At the time, Hitler's Nazi party was imposing brutal laws aimed at preserving the Aryan race in Germany. This included forced sterilizations and other practices aimed at those deemed inferior by the Nazis.

Stefani Hicswa, MSUB's current chancellor, has formed a task force to investigate and make a recommendation to her. A new name for the building would require the approval of the Montana University System Board of Regents.

McMullen Hall was the first building on campus, constructed in 1935 as the sole classroom for students. Before then, students had attended classes at various buildings downtown.

McMullen served as university president until his retirement in 1945. He moved to Polson and died in 1963 and the age of 88.

Across the country, other universities have re-examined the names of prominent campus buildings named after founders' checkered pasts came to light. Last fall, the University of Southern California announced it would rename a building after Joe Medicine Crow, a Crow war chief and university graduate.

The building had previously been named after Rufus B. vonKleinSmid, a leader in California's eugenics movement.