The First Building on the Campus of the University of South Carolina Named for an African American

The board of trustees of the University of South Carolina voted to name a campus residence hall for University of South Carolina graduate and African American educator Celia Dial Saxon. The Celia Dial Saxon Building houses close to 300 non-first-year students. This is the first building on the campus of the university that is named for an African American.

Saxon was born Celia Emma Dial in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1857, the daughter of an enslaved woman and a White man. During Reconstruction, Saxon was one of the first African American students to attend South Carolina College, later the University of South Carolina. Upon graduation, she began teaching at Columbia’s Howard School, starting a career that spanned 57 years. In 1890, she married Thomas A. Saxon, dean of the law school at historically Black Allen University.

Saxon died of a heart attack on January 29, 1935, while grading students’ papers at her home in Columbia.

“Celia Dial Saxon is one of the university’s most remarkable alumni, a woman whose impact and reputation stretched across the nation,” said Harris Pastides, interim president of the University of South Carolina. “Our university rightly honors her by naming this building for her. Not only was she a true education pioneer, but she embodied the spirit of equality and justice through her life’s work. The Celia Dial Saxon Building will stand as a reminder to current and future generations of students of the high ideals she championed.”

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