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E. Lee Trinkle Hall

Norm Shafer,

When the university was first founded, it did not have a dedicated library building. At the time the library was actually housed in Virginia Hall, which is now a dormitory. There was not nearly enough space on campus for the library materials, so President Combs went to the Governor to ask for funds, stating that MWC was the only state college without its own standing library. Obtaining the materials needed, construction began on the building in 1940. It was scheduled to be completed in 1941, but because of World War Two the finishing was postponed. Despite this setback, the building was still in use during the war, and no other changes were made to the building until the sixties. (1) Present day, Trinkle is home to the departments of Classics, Philosophy, Religion, Computer Science, Education and Mathematics. 

The building is currently named after Governor E. Lee Trinkle. In 1910 he became a lawyer in Wytheville, and soon after became involved in local politics. In 1915 Trinkle was elected to the Virginia State Senate. In 1921 he ran for governor of Virginia, winning by a landslide. During his time in the senate and as governor, Trinkle was incredibly supportive of women’s suffrage, and specifically UMW.(Although at the time the school was known as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women.) Trinkle consistently went before Virginia’s state government to help procure funds for UMW, including funds for the very building he would be named after.

Although incredibly supportive of women, Trinkle was downright hostile towards people who weren’t in the majority, like African Americans and people with learning disabilities. As Governor he passed three laws, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, the Forced Sterilization Act of 1924, and the Racial Segregation Act of 1926. The first of these laws essentially made it mandatory for everyone in Virginia to carry an I.D. that declared their “racial composition.” The Forced Sterilization Act declared anyone in a mental institution could be sterilized without their consent. This could include anyone “afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent, idiocy, imbecility, feeblemindedness or epilepsy” (2). Lastly, the Racial Segregation Act required racial segregation in public areas. 

Trinkle Hall is currently in the process of being renamed. A new name will officially be put in place in the fall of 2020.

In black and white, there are two floors of a building shown, with several women on the bottom floor checking out books.
Taken in 1943, this photograph shows the rotunda of Trinkle Hall. At the time it was the home of the Library’s circulation desk. Photo courtesy of The Centennial Collection in the University Archives.
In black and white, the front of a building is shown, which is very ornate looking.
The front of Trinkle Hall when it was still UMW’s library. Photo courtesy of The Centennial Collection in the University Archives.










(1) Michael Spencer, University of Mary Washington: Preservation Plan-80% Draft (Fredericksburg, VA: Department of Historic Preservation, June 8, 2014), Pages 207 and 209.

(2) Michael Spencer and The Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee, Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee: Final Report (Fredericksburg, VA: The Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee, November 6, 2019), Pages 52-54.