School should honor Lee
but remove his name
I am a 1965 graduate of Washington and Lee University. All of the males in my family attended Washington and Lee for four generations, and before that many went to Washington College. My great-grandfather was a pallbearer at Robert E. Lee’s funeral. The school and Lee himself always have been important and revered in my family. I strongly disagree with Lucas E. Morel’s op-ed of July 29. Lee’s name should be removed from the name of the university.
Morel acknowledges that Lee committed treason when he became a Confederate general supporting secession for “a separate nation devoted to white supremacy and black slavery.” He also correctly stated that “Lee never endorsed civil or political equality for Black people.” This is not a minor failing as African Americans still have not achieved civil and political equality.
Morel describes the many things Lee did for the university. Lee’s contributions to the university have been and should continue to be recognized by the university, but not in its name.
Our name says who we are in two words that should not require long explanations or excuses. It is Washington who was a Founding Father of our country and Lee who led a rebellion in our country. Before one gets to the positive about Lee at the university, one must acknowledge he committed treason, led the South in a war that costs hundreds of thousands of American lives, and never endorsed civil or political equality for African Americans. That is too much; his name must be removed.
Lee is honored at W&L in a number of ways and he should continue to be honored for his many transformative contributions. Perhaps the two most iconic symbols of W&L are the colonnade and, across from it, Lee Chapel, built at his request and where Lee is buried. This should remain. The university should honor Lee for all he did for our school, but his name cannot be in our title.
I have an old Washington College diploma that has a nice look to it.