'Hampton' No More: Man Sheds Family Name With Ties To Confederate General

Jun 17, 2020
Originally published on June 19, 2020 3:43 pm

Growing up, Skip Auld says he didn't know much about the man his great-grandfather was named after. It wasn't a part of family lore, he says, and he always went by his nickname, Skip.

At birth, Skip Auld was named Hampton — for his great-grandfather, whose namesake was Wade Hampton III, a Confederate general and slave owner.

He was the fourth Hampton Auld in his family.

Then, last year, as he listened to the audiobook of Ron Chernow's Grant, he heard about Hampton's 1876 campaign for governor of South Carolina, which Auld says involved a "terrorist campaign, really, to suppress the vote of black people."

"I actually pulled my car over, took the CD back to the beginning of the track and listened to it a second time," Auld, 68, tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. "I thought, 'I need to go home and check on when my great-grandfather was born,' because he was the first Hampton Auld. And he was born that year: 1876."

That's when the CEO of the Anne Arundel County Public Library in Maryland changed his first name from Hampton to Charles — his father's middle name — writing on the petition that he didn't like the idea of being named after a "terrorist."

He originally decided to keep the decision to himself and his family — one sister supported the decision, another one did not. But when the recent anti-racism demonstrations began sweeping the country — and protesters began toppling Confederate monuments — he spoke out about changing his name.

In a column for the Capital Gazette published on June 10, he said he "understood that four generations of Hampton Aulds began with a defeated Confederate soldier's pride in his general and glorification of what became known as the Lost Cause.'"

In addition to writing the column, he also wrote a statement for his library on George Floyd's death and helped put together a list of books on combating racism.

Auld discusses how it felt to change a family name and why he decided to publicly talk about his decision now.


Interview Highlights

On the message he's hoping to convey

I didn't initially intend this to be any sort of grand statement of any sort. It was just something very personal to me. But given the moment that we're in, with what I hope will be a permanent transformation of our country and the world really in terms of the racism in our country and the world, I hope that people will begin to gain a better understanding of one another. Listen to one another. I think that's been a lot of self-reflection for me over the past month, ways I might have dishonored people or not really listened to the black friends or colleagues or people that I work with. So I would just say it's an opportunity to just to try to understand the people who are our neighbors and try to make them our friends.

On what he wants to tell his future grandchildren

Well I don't have grandkids. I haven't really thought about what I would say. But I would basically say be true to yourself and be kind and try to understand and empathize with other people and just do what you can to make the world a better place.

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now amid the anti-racism protests that have swept the country, some Confederate monuments have been toppled, others removed. Next, the story of a man confronting a very personal Confederate monument, his name.

Skip Auld is the CEO of the Anne Arundel County Public Library in Maryland. Skip is a lifelong nickname. His given name, Hampton Marshall Auld. His namesake was Wade Hampton, a Confederate general and slaveholder. Last year, Auld decided to drop part of that name even though he was the fourth-generation Hampton. He wrote about what led him to do so just last week in the Capital Gazette newspaper.

SKIP AULD: I really didn't know much about this person, Wade Hampton. And I didn't really know that that's who I had been named for. It wasn't part of family lore. But I was listening to the book by Ron Chernow called "Grant," and I was in the section when he was president. And he was combating the Ku Klux Klan and so on. But at a certain point, he talked in this book about General Wade Hampton who was running a campaign for governor, and he led a terrorist campaign, really, to suppress the vote of black people, essentially brought the end of Reconstruction in that year, 1876.

And I actually pulled my car over, took the CD back to the beginning of the track and listened to it a second time. I thought, I need to go home and check on when my great-grandfather was born because he was the first Hampton Auld. And he was born that year, 1876. And I think even before I got home, I thought, I just can't keep this name. I'm just going to change it. And I decided to take my father's middle name, which was Charles, so my name now is Charles Marshall Auld instead of Hampton Marshall Auld.

KELLY: So you have this moment in the car where you decide, I need to do this. You must've driven home and told your family. What kind of reaction did you get?

AULD: Well, the overall reaction was definitely positive from my kids. One of my sisters liked it a lot. The other didn't especially like it. I think the biggest sort of revelation for me is what it takes to change your name legally. The first part was pretty easy because I just went to the county courthouse and changed it with the clerk of court. But then you have to change your bank statements. You have to change your passport. You have to change everything. I still haven't finished making all of those changes. One of our trustees is a transgender woman, and she and I talked some about her change of her name and what a pain it is. Of course, it led me to think what a pain it is for women who - usually women - who change their name when they get married. It's a lot.

KELLY: You didn't have to write about this. You didn't have to be public about it. What is the message you're hoping to convey? What do you hope people hear as they're listening?

AULD: Well, I didn't initially intend this to be any sort of a grand statement of any sort. It was just something very personal to me. But given the moment that we're in with what I hope will be a permanent transformation of our country and the world, really, in terms of the racism in our country and the world, I hope that people will begin to gain a better understanding of one another, listen to one another. I think that's been a lot of self-reflection for me over the past month, ways I might have dishonored people or not really listened to the black friends or colleagues or people that I work with. So I would just say it's an opportunity to just try to understand the people who are our neighbors and try to make them our friends.

KELLY: I don't know if you have grandkids yet or if you're hoping for grandkids at some point, but how will you talk about this decision to do away with a name that was in the family for four generations and how you thought about that and what you want them to know?

AULD: Well, I don't have grandkids, haven't really thought about what I would say. But I would basically say be true to yourself, and be kind and try to understand and empathize with other people, and just do what you can to make the world a better place.

KELLY: Skip Auld - he is CEO of the Anne Arundel County, Md., Public Library.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

AULD: Thank you, Mary Louise.

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