From the Los Angeles Times this afternoon:
Traveler, USC’s mascot, comes under scrutiny for having a name similar to Robert E. Lee’s horseOkay, but Traveler is a white horse.
When Richard Saukko galloped his chalk-white Arabian horse named Traveler around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum almost 56 years ago, it was supposed to be a one-time stunt.
Instead, the brief performance before USC kicked off its season against Georgia Tech turned into one of college football’s iconic traditions. A succession of white horses named Traveler have followed — Traveler IX debuts this fall — trotting out of the tunnel as “Conquest” plays and the costumed Trojan warrior atop the horse waves a sword. But during a rally earlier this week to show solidarity in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., a USC campus group linked the name to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose favorite horse was Traveller.
At the rally, according to the student newspaper the Daily Trojan, Saphia Jackson, co-director of the USC Black Student Assembly, asked students not to be quiet, and reminded that “white supremacy hits close to home” and referenced the name of the Trojans mascot. …
“The problem is this: maybe three weeks ago it was fine,” Pat Saukko DeBernardi said. “So now the flavor of the day is . . . we all have to be in hysteria. . . . It’s more of a political issue. The horse isn’t political and neither am I.”
She noted that the name of Lee’s well-known horse included an extra “l” and, besides, Traveler was already named when her late husband purchased him for $5,000 in 1958, half the asking price. The horse was a fixture in movies like “Snowfire” and “The Ballad of a Gunfighter.”
“He was a movie horse and he turned mean,” Richard Saukko once told The Times. “That’s how I got him so cheap. A few months later, he’d become so gentle again, people wouldn’t believe it was the same horse.”
… He used Charlton Heston’s leftover costumes from “Ben Hur” to assemble a Trojan warrior outfit — though the armor bruised his arms.