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University of South Carolina names residence hall after Celia Dial Saxon

African American educator was one of the best known and respected in the state

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The board of trustees of the University of South Carolina met on Friday and voted unanimously to name an upperclassmen's residence hall after graduate and renowned African American educator Celia Dial Saxon.

“Celia Dial Saxon is one of the university’s most remarkable alumni, a woman whose impact and reputation stretched across the nation,” Interim President Harris Pastides said. “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.”

Saxon was born into slavery in Columbia in 1857. She enrolled in the Normal School at South Carolina College in 1877 (later the University of South Carolina) and began her 57-year career in education after graduation. . She married Thomas A. Saxon, dean of Allen University's law school, in 1890, and the couple had two children.

Saxon is credited as one of the founders of the Fairwold Industrial Home for Negro Girls in Lexington County and the Wilkinson Orphanage of Negro Children.

“Celia Dial Saxon’s life stands as a testament to perseverance, compassion, hard work and a commitment to excellence,” said Alex English, co-chair of the History Commission Implementation Group that considered candidates for whom to name the residence hall. “Her legacy bestows honor and dignity to our campus. It’s only fitting that, as a distinguished alumna of our state’s largest university, her name be memorialized here.”

In 1929, Columbia's Blossom Street School was renamed in her honor, and in 1954, Columbia Housing Authority named the 400-unit affordable housing project off Harden Street after Saxon.

The residence hall at 700 Lincoln Street will be the first on-campus university building named after an African American. The building, housing 297 upperclassmen, is located adjacent to Columbia's historic Ward One District where the Celia Dial Saxon Elementary School was located until its closure in 1968.

Celia Dial Saxon passed away on Jan. 25, 1935, while grading students' papers at her home in Columbia.

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