Commission seeks suggestions from Virginia students on Lee Statue replacement at U.S. Capitol

Commission seeks suggestions from Virginia students on Lee Statue replacement at U.S. Capitol
Robert E. Lee Statue at the U.S. Capitol (Source: US Capitol)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol is asking the public to submit suggestions for a historical person to represent Virginia in a new statue for placement in the Capitol. The commission is particularly interested in hearing proposals from Virginia students.

The commission made its decision to solicit the public for proposed honorees for a new statue during its most recent public meeting on Oct. 8.

The new statue will eventually complement one of George Washington and take the place of a statue of Robert E. Lee that the commission recommended removing during a public hearing in August.

Suggestions for a historical figure to represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where each state is entitled to two statues, must conform to criteria established by the office of the Architect of the U.S. Capitol.

Those criteria require that the person honored by a statue be deceased, be illustrious for historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service and represent only one individual.

While the criteria also require that the person was a U.S. citizen, it does make exceptions for an indigenous person who resided in the present-day U.S., such as Pocahontas, 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 with significant ideals, writings or concepts.

Other criteria that may qualify a suggested individual would be someone renowned for exemplary valor, patriotism, and bravery.

Additionally, the person should be one whose primary historical significance ties her or him directly to Virginia.

Or the person should have spent the majority of his or her life residing in the commonwealth. Also, suggested honorees should represent current prevailing values, according to the commission’s criteria.

To date, even prior to formally announcing its request from the public for proposed figures, the commission has received 45 names.

These include, in addition to Pocahontas:

  • 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;
  • Dr. 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.

Students and others should submit their suggestions by email to USCapitolCommission@dhr.virginia.gov or by mail to the US Capitol Commission, Department of Historic Resources, 2801 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221.

The next meeting of the commission convenes on November 17, beginning at 9 a.m. and will be conducted remotely due to necessary health precautions resulting from the covid-19 pandemic.

Names for the new statue submitted prior to that public meeting will be included on a list DHR compiles and presents to the commission, although the commission will accept submissions until the close of day on Nov. 27.

After the Nov. 27 deadline, the commission will research persons suggested for the statue to determine the values and attributes each historic figure represents.

The commission will narrow the proposed candidates for the statue to a list of five.

At a public hearing in December, the commission will select from the list of five a final name for a new statue to recommend to the General Assembly.

More information about the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol—including archived presentations from its meetings, public comments received, and other documents—can be accessed on the DHR website (www.dhr.virginia.gov) or directly at the following webpage link: www.dhr.virginia.gov/uscapitolcommission.

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