Another game of guess-the-political party.
Maintenance crews were still cleaning up from an overnight break-in at Winthrop’s Tillman Hall Thursday morning when, in an unrelated incident, someone vandalized a portrait of the building’s namesake.
A person wrote “violent racist” in red paint across the portrait of Benjamin Tillman about 9:30 a.m., according to an email from President Daniel Mahony, who is in his second day on the job. That person was seen running from the building.
Officials removed the painting and a placard with information about Benjamin Tillman. The damage to the portrait is being assessed. It’s unclear whether the portrait can or will be restored and placed back inside the building.
By Thursday afternoon, no arrests were made. A Winthrop Campus Police report states the damage is estimated at $3,000.
“Ben Tillman was inarguably a racist, however, that fact does not justify vandalism,” Mahony wrote. “Campus police are conducting an investigation of the incident and anyone found responsible will be held accountable.”
According to Winthrop police, around 9:40 a.m., an employee from the university’s president’s office was on her way to the restroom when she spotted a “thin, white male, wearing a green ball cap, standing in front of the portrait of Mr. Tillman.”
The suspect, the employee told police, was “acting odd” and then she saw him painting on Tillman’s portrait. Officials say the vandalism consisted of “violent racist” scrawled in red paint, with an arrow pointing at Tillman’s head.
The suspect left through the building’s front door. A perimeter search and search of trash cans on campus provided no leads.
The incident came just hours after someone apparently broke a first-floor window to gain access to the building during the night. Nothing was reported stolen or damaged after that incident, which university spokesman Jeff Perez said is unrelated to the vandalism.
Tillman’s portrait is one of two situated near the main door of Tillman Hall. The other is Robert C. Winthrop, who helped found the school in 1886. Tillman was instrumental in Winthrop and Clemson University’s founding.
The Winthrop vandalism occurred just two days after someone vandalized a statue of Tillman in Columbia with a red paintball. That statue faces a Confederate flag and Confederate monument, around which security has increased following protests after the slayings of nine people June 17 at a historic black church in Charleston.
Tillman, a noted white supremacist who advocated lynching any black who tried to vote, served as governor and as a U.S. senator from 1890 to 1918.