Public hearing set on Lee statue replacement at US Capitol

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A state panel tasked with recommending a replacement for Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue at the U.S. Capitol will hold a virtual public hearing on the matter next month.

The panel, created by the General Assembly earlier this year, has set a Nov. 17 hearing, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Sunday. The public can also weigh in by email or mail through Nov. 27.

Following the public hearing and the end of the public comment period, the Department of Historic Resources will present the panel with a list of five finalists. Then the commission will pick the honoree at a virtual meeting in December.

There are a few key criteria that suggested historical figures should follow, according to the commission. That criteria states that the figure:

  • Be deceased.
  • Be illustrious for historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service.
  • Represent only one individual.

The commission said its criteria requires that the person must have been a U.S. citizen; however, it does make exceptions for an indigenous person who resided in the present-day U.S., such as Pocahontas, which is one name already submitted to the commission.

To those criteria, the commission has added additional values and attributes. The historical person must be:

  • Associated with significant events that changed the course of history.
  • Or associated with significant ideals, writings or concepts.
  • Or renowned for exemplary valor, patriotism and bravery.

The person must also be one whose significance is tied directly to Virginia, or they’re someone who spent the majority of their life living in the state.

Prior to formally announcing Oct. 15 its request for proposed figures, the commission said that it had already received 45 names. In addition to Pocahontas, those included:

  • George C. Marshall — a graduate of Virginia Military Institute who is credited as U.S. Secretary of State with creating the “Marshall Plan” that rebuilt Europe after World War II;
  • Robert Russa Moton — an Amelia County native and nationally esteemed African American educator who served as an administrator at Hampton Institute (today’s Hampton University) and principal at the Tuskegee Institute beginning in 1915; and
  • Booker T. Washington — a native of Franklin County, who founded the Tuskegee Institute and advocated during segregation for improved opportunities for Blacks in education and business.

The panel voted in July to take down the Lee statue in the National Statuary Hall and replace it with the to-be-determined Virginian. The Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond will take the Lee statue.

Among the most frequently suggested individuals so far is Barbara Johns, the newspaper reported. She is the schoolgirl who led the walkout at Farmville’s Moton High School in 1951 to protest the students’ substandard segregated school facilities. The Farmville case lead to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that found officially segregated public schools unconstitutional.

WTOP’s Matthew Delaney contributed to this report.

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