(AL.com) — A group of House Democrats are asking Secretary of Defense James Mattis to consider renaming Alabama's Fort Rucker and other Southern military installations that honor Confederate leaders.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California, led a group of 20 other Representatives in calling for name changes at as many as 10 U.S. military installations, saying in a letter the current designations "only serve to promote a dark and divisive time in our history and do not uphold the best of our country."
"As a veteran, I know what a high honor it is to have military installations named for heroic Americans," Thompson said in a statement. "It is an honor that no Confederate figure should enjoy. Their actions and ideology were repugnant and they should not be celebrated by the country they fought to dissolve."
The letter cites Alabama's Fort Rucker; Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; and Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia.
Fort Rucker, home to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, is named for Confederate General Edmund Rucker, who led Southern forces in battles in Chickamauga, Nashville and Chattanooga before losing an arm and being held as prisoner of war. After the war, Rucker relocated to Birmingham, where he became an industrial magnate and an early leader in the city's coal, steel and banking businesses.
The Army opened the Dale County military installation in 1942, with the War Department - the forerunner to the U.S. Department of Defense - naming the facility Camp Rucker. In 1955, the name was changed to Fort Rucker to reflect the expansion from an infantry center to a helicopter training base.
Today, the base serves as the primary flight training base for Army aviation.