When I was a kid growing up in Louisiana, no public building, bridge, highway or any other taxpayer-funded project could bear the name of a living person. Why? Louisiana masons over the years made a killing chiseling off the names of politicians and public officials who had taken up residence in state or federal penal institutions.
Those services could be needed in College Station soon. P. David Romei, former executive director of the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley and a graduate school classmate of mine, went on trial this week for embezzling public and commission funds. If convicted, he could be directing prison art and dramatic productions for the next decade. Meanwhile, every day local citizens drive by the multimillion dollar Arts Center, emboldened with his name in sliver letters on black marble. I wonder what that would cost to modify?
Don’t hold your breath. Regardless of the outcome of David’s trial, Texas won’t adopt such a law soon. There are two reasons. First, look Texas A&M’s academic buildings. Were they named after great scientists, humanitarians, and educators? Hardly. Heep, Glasscock, Zachry, and Mays gave a lot of money to have their names engraved into posterity, and there are many more buildings up for naming for the right price.
Secondly, Texans would never admit the need for such a law. Grandiose attitudes still permeate this state’s ruling classes, and they’d much rather hire that occasional mason to remove the name of a fallen colleague than admit that a true picture of a Texan’s character can be best be viewed when he resides on the other side of the grass.