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Concerns over possible KKK ties drive renaming of Fullerton’s Plummer Auditorium

Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton will get a new name after a unanimous vote from Fullerton Joint Union High School District board members, who said they didn’t want the building to be named after someone with possible ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

The board’s vote at a meeting Tuesday, June 16, follows nationwide protests against racial inequality that sparked a petition demanding a change to the auditorium’s name. By Tuesday, more than 27,000 people had signed the petition, which was started by a recent Sunny Hills High graduate, Jacqueline Logwood.

“It’s never too late to confront our past,” board member Lauren Klatzker said at the meeting. “It’s time to make a change. We need to represent everyone in our community.”

But some in attendance urged the board not to make a decision based on few definitive facts. “If he was a KKK leader and there’s supporting information, a picture, something he wrote, something he was quoted in, I’m for it,” one speaker told the board. “But there doesn’t seem to be evidence.”

For 90 years, the auditorium has hosted performances by district students and other community events.

The building is named after Louis E. Plummer, who was superintendent of the district – which then included Fullerton Union High School and Fullerton College – from 1919 to 1941, according to the city’s webpage about the auditorium. Plummer, who died in 1958, had also worked as a teacher and vice principal at Fullerton Union High.

Board members said based on information in a 1979 dissertation by UCLA doctoral student Christopher Cocoltchos, they believe Plummer had ties to the KKK.

The paper quoted Cal State Fullerton researcher Richard Curtiss’s interview with Albert Launer, a former Fullerton city attorney, who said Plummer joined the KKK “as a man dedicated to the idea that youth should not be confronted with the bad habits of the day.”

(A Cal State Fullerton archivist said the school is currently unable to access the interview to provide a copy.)

In his dissertation, Cocoltchos wrote that people like Plummer joined the Klan as they “sought to provide a morally pure environment for school children which included the banning of alcoholic beverages.”

Before the vote, dozens of residents spoke in favor of renaming the auditorium.

“Isn’t there a better name we can apply to the building in 2020?” Logwood said. “Speaking the name of a KKK member may be a negative experience for the people in the Black community who are performing.”

But a few speakers highlighted Plummer’s achievements and said they wanted district officials to do more research before deciding whether to remove his name from the auditorium.

Plummer is believed to have helped the city’s migrant Mexican farmworkers learn English and get educated, some speakers said.

Board member Marilyn Buchi said Plummer achieved much as superintendent, and she didn’t find anything that would suggest he was a bigot.

Still, Buchi voted to rename the building, saying she was troubled by the possibility that Plummer had ties to the KKK.

Board member Joanne Fawley said she did her own research, both on community sentiment and Plummer’s history. She ultimately landed on voting in favor of renaming the auditorium, she said.

“It’s time to turn the page, as one does when you read a history book,” she said. “That’s how you get to the next era of history.”

Before the meeting, district Superintendent Scott Scambray said district policy allows the board to solicit auditorium name suggestions from the community and appoint a committee to review them and make a recommendation to the board. Board members have not publicly said when they plan to consider new names.

Source: Orange County Register

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