When GulfQuest National Maritime Museum opened in September of last year it included an homage to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, but not for long.
The name of Alabama’s senior senator was removed from a party room at the museum before the Republican primary on March 1 of this year.
In a Facebook announcement in January promoting Senior Bowl media night, GulfQuest referred to one of its banquet rooms as the “Richard Shelby” room. However, a February search of GulfQuest’s website showed the same room listed as the “Port City” room.
GulfQuest spokeswoman Diana Brewer did not respond to a March 1 email asking for comment on the room’s name change. A call to Brewer asking for comment went unreturned last week, but Shelby’s office did, at least, acknowledge the name change in an email message on Tuesday, May 31.
“Sen. Shelby was not aware that the room was named after him and did not authorize it to be, so the decision was made for the room to be renamed,” wrote Shelby spokeswoman Torrie Matous.
It is still unclear who ultimately made the decision to rename the room, or when exactly it was made, but Shelby’s reputation for pork spending and the fact that his name graces many structures in Alabama was a talking point for Shelby’s main GOP primary opponent, Jonathan McConnell.
“Frankly, it terrifies me that GulfQuest would have the audacity to merely name a room after Richard Shelby,” McConnell wrote in an email message. “Clearly, he is used to entire monuments dedicated to his courageous, selfless and humble service. I hope Mobile can recover from this slight.”
McConnell came the closest to besting Shelby in the GOP primary, but still lost to the 82-year-old senior senator, who picked up about 65 percent of the vote in a four-man field.
Ron Crompton, Shelby’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming general election, said Shelby’s explanation of what happened “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“Since when does Richard Shelby not want something named after him?” Crompton asked. “That’s the first I’ve ever heard him wanting his name taken off of anything. I think there’s probably more to it than that.”
GulfQuest received roughly $10 million in federal grants, according to previous Lagniappe stories.
The room now named the Port City room is available for rent for $1,750, with an additional hourly rate of $200. The GulfQuest website says it’s “perfect for luncheons, dinners, or receptions.” The Port City room is one of several rental options listed on the site.