RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today applauded a unanimous vote by the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol recommending the removal of the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from National Statuary Hall. The Commission made its recommendation following a virtual public meeting hosted by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR). The Governor testified before the Commission in favor of removing the statue.
The eight-member state commission, authorized by the General Assembly, is charged with determining whether the Robert E. Lee statue should be replaced, and if so, recommending to the General Assembly a replacement to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia alongside George Washington in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection, where each state is entitled to two statues.
“The Robert E. Lee statue does not tell our full and true story, and it has never represented all Virginians,” said Governor Northam. “I commend the Commission’s righteous decision to remove this relic from the halls of Congress and replace it with a new statue that embodies the inclusive Commonwealth we aspire to be.”
Since 1909, America’s first president George Washington has stood as Virginia’s contribution to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, along with Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The Virginia General Assembly established the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol during its last regular session and tasked it with studying removal and replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue.
Governor Northam appointed two Commission members, Dr. Edward Ayers, an historian and professor at the University of Richmond, and Dr. Colita Fairfax, a professor at Norfolk State University and chair of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. The Senate of Virginia appointed Senator Louise Lucas and the Speaker of the House of Delegates selected Delegate Jeion Ward. During the Commission’s first meeting on July 1, the four appointed members elected three citizen representatives, Dr. Fred Motley of Danville, Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe and a resident of Indian Neck, and Margaret “Margi” Vanderhye of McLean. DHR Director Julie Langan serves as an ex-officio member.
The Commission will now begin work to recommend to the General Assembly a prominent Virginia citizen of historic renown or renowned for distinguished civil or military to be commemorated in National Statuary Hall Collection. Governor Northam will transmit the Commission’s decision to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress and request the immediate removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The Commission will also be required to select a sculptor for the new statue, with preference given to a sculptor from Virginia; estimate the costs associated with the replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue, including costs related to construction and placement of the new statue, for the removal and transfer of the Robert E. Lee statue, and for any unveiling ceremony of the new statue; and recommend to the General Assembly a suitable state, local, or private nonprofit history museum in the Commonwealth for placement of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The Commission is required to hold at least one public hearing prior to making any recommendation to the General Assembly on a new statue. The next public meeting of the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol will be announced here.