RICHMOND,Va. (WRIC)– On Tuesday, people across the state had the chance to speak publicly about who they want to replace the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S Capitol.
Virginians were eager to let their voices be heard and be apart of history. Nearly fifty people submitted their suggestions before the official application process had started.
Julie Langan, Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, said as of Monday, 250 people have written letters, emailed or spoke publicly about who they want to represent Virginia in the nation’s capitol.
Statues of Robert E. Lee and George Washington currently represent the Commonwealth in the U.S Capitol, but the Confederate General won’t be there for much longer.
Legislators passed a bill in the spring allowing a committee to determine if the statue should be removed and recommend a replacement. The Commission of Historical Statues in the United States Capitol decided in the summer and is now tasked with deciding who will replace Lee.
During Monday’s virtual public hearing, Virginians like Brian Shaw, weighed-in. Shaw lives in Richmond and says he would like to see George Marshall replace General Lee.
“He’s deserving of that honor because of his role in the general army,” Shaw said. “Because of his role in the victory of WWII and appointment as Chief of Staff. Marshall’s whole career is that he was a selfless servant and leader. He did nothing to promote himself and because he’s so modest and rather shy, not many people know about him.”
According to online emails provided by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, several applicants also recommended Marshall to represent Virginia. Others repeatedly mentioned were Booker T. Washington, Pocahontas, Oliver Hill and Barbara Johns.
Johns was a civil rights activist and a key figure in Brown vs. Board of Education. At age sixteen, she organized a student walkout in Prince Edward County, at a high school for African Americans, to protest its overcrowded conditions and poor facilities.
Alice Lynch has lived in Richmond the majority of her life and spoke at Monday’s meeting, recommending Johns. Lynch shared with 8News that she is a pioneer woman and if she’s selected to represent Virginia in the nation’s Capitol, she will yet again make history.
“Not only will she bring much needed diversity, but in terms of gender,” Lynch explained. “Of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection; seven are women– five are White women and two are Native American women. There are no Black women.”
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources is taking up all the submissions. Langan says they have received seventy different names and things are moving very quickly.
“It’s been a little overwhelming, but the public has been very positive,” said Langan. “Virginia’s desire to remove the Lee statue quickly and before a new statue is ready to replace it is unprecedented.”
During a previous virtual meeting an estimated budget was presented, which stated the replacement would cost around $500,000.
Public comment in the form of email and letter submissions, will be accepted until November 27.
The Historical Resources Society will narrow down the selection to five people and present those to the commission. After that, the commission will choose one honoree and recommend that person to the General Assembly.
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