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Okla. law school removing founder's name over KKK ties

John Rogers' law building, at University of Tulsa.

CBS affiliate KOTV

TULSA, Okla. -- The name of a founder of the University of Tulsa law school will be removed from the building because of his ties to the Ku Klux Klan, the private school announced Wednesday.

Trustees voted in a closed-door meeting to strip John Rogers' name from the law building, but the university has yet to decide what it will be called.

Rogers was an attorney and philanthropist who helped found the law school in 1943, served for years as its unpaid dean and was a trustee for decades.

But he also helped incorporate the KKK-affiliated Tulsa Benevolent Association, founded months after the 1921 Tulsa race riot that left about 300 black residents dead and a thriving section of downtown -- known as Black Wall Street -- decimated.

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The proposal to remove Rogers' name had been applauded by civil rights groups, including the NAACP. At least one trustee had opposed the move, saying that Rogers renounced the KKK after two years and spent nearly 60 years of the rest of his life improving the community.

School president Steadman Upham said a plaque memorializing Rogers' contributions to the school will be installed at the main entrances to the law building. He said there have been no discussions about naming the building for anybody else.

More than 250 students have signed an online petition to name the law building after G. William Rice, a tribal law professor at the school who passed away earlier this year.

"Wednesday's action by the board does not alter or attempt to rewrite history; rather it represents the best efforts to objectively examine the life of John Rogers in its entirety," Upham said in a statement.

The University of Tulsa's John Rogers Hall is where Hunter Siex spent the past two years of his life studying to be an attorney. It's a building with a name that he now believes could tarnish the school's reputation, CBS affiliate KOTV reported.

"This is the law school," Siex told KOTV. "You don't want somebody who's affiliated with this kind of bigotry and hatred representing your school."

School administrators had commissioned a review of all campus buildings named after individuals and Rogers' name was the only one that was flagged as problematic.

Nationally, universities and cities have conducted similar reviews. In 2013, Tulsa City Council members voted to rename Tulsa's glitzy arts district, which had been named after KKK member Wyatt Tate Brady, the son of a Confederate veteran.

Today the street is still called Brady, but for the Civil War photographer Mathew Brady.