A Virginia panel has recommended that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue in the U.S. Capitol be replaced with another yet-to-be named Virginian amid national discussions about removing controversial symbols.
The eight-member Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol voted unanimously on Friday to take down the Lee statute. Like every other state, Virginia has two representatives in the Statuary Hall Collection. The other is George Washington. Virginia picked Lee for one of its statues in 1909.
Gov. Ralph Northam said he would relay the Lee decision to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress and request the statue’s immediate removal.
“The Robert E. Lee statue does not tell our full and true story, and it has never represented all Virginians,” Northam said in a statement after the vote. “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.”
The decision on Lee is the latest action by government officials in Virginia to remove or retire Confederate symbols following the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, sparking a nationwide protest movement. The commission was created earlier this year by the Virginia General Assembly.
The U.S. House has approved a bill to remove statues of Lee and other Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol. The Senate would still have to act for that to happen. But the General Assembly also could act on the recommendation without congressional approval.
This past week, the Virginia House speaker had removed a Lee statue and busts of generals, including J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson, from the historic Old House Chamber in Richmond.
Northam also has ordered the removal of a 21-foot (6-meter) Lee monument on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue. A lawsuit has delayed that statue’s removal, but other Confederate monuments on the street have already come down.