Calls for the Robert E. Lee statue to be preserved after removal from Monument Avenue

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With the Thursday decision from the Supreme Court of Virginia that paves the way for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, questions remain about what is next for the historic street in the City of Richmond.

The Lee statue is the final Confederate monument standing on Monument Ave. The pedestals that raised other Confederate statutes high above Richmond are now empty, with the exception of that beneath the Lee statue.

When will the statue be taken down? How? What will be done with it?

Andrew Morehead with the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans hopes the monument will be preserved as a piece of history.

“I think the monument to Lee is not necessarily a monument specifically to Robert E. Lee, but I think what it represents, to me and, arguably, what it represented to folks around the turn of the century, was a tribute to all of the soldiers that served very nobly and honorably under General Lee,” Morehead said. “It is history, it is something that is very important.”

According to its website, the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ mission is to carry the message of Confederate Heritage and preserve its history. Despite the legal decision that allows the Lee monument to be taken down, Morehead said he is confident that the organization’s mission will continue.

“The next step in my eyes is for some type of agreement be made where this monument is given to folks who will preserve it. Place it on private land and have it there in perpetuity, as it was originally intended,” he said. “Per our charge, we are an organization that is committed to preserving the true history and honor of the American Confederate veteran. In that, we don’t need a statue to go look at.”

Following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, protests ensued in the City of Richmond and around the country. It was around that time that the Jefferson Davis statue, also along Monument Avenue, was torn down by protestors, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the Lee statue.

The Robert E. Lee monument in November after protesters spent months transforming the monument itself and the space around it. (Emma North/WRIC)

In July 2020, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney directed the removal of the remaining Confederate monuments on city-owned land, including that of J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson.

But to Morehead, the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue represent an important history in Richmond, which was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War.

“They were put up to revere those that had passed away, many left on battlefields, buried in shallow graves, and never had a proper funeral,” Morehead said.

For those pedestals on Monument Avenue that used to be the bases for city-owned Confederate statues, the Richmond City Council confirmed to 8News that the future of those pedestals is still being discussed.

Morehead said should a replacement statue be erected in Lee’s place, he hopes it is of a worthy individual.

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