The University of South Carolina has renamed a residence hall to honor Celia Dial Saxon, who was born enslaved in 1857 but later had a 57-year career as an educator in South Carolina. Celia Dial Saxon Hall is the first building on the campus of the flagship state university to be named for an African American. The seven-story building was built in 2016. It houses nearly 300 students.
Born into slavery, Saxon attended the Normal School on the University of South Carolina campus when it was integrated during Reconstruction. She went on to a 57-year career as a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, Benedict College in Columbia, and what is now South Carolina State University. She only missed three days of work in a 57-year teaching career.
Saxon helped found the Fairwold Industrial School for Negro Girls in Columbia, the Wilkinson Orphanage for Negro Children in Cayce, South Carolina, and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YMCA 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. “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 died in 1935.