Robert E. Lee Statue

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Statue of Robert Edward Lee mounted on Traveler, bronze on granite pedestal, ca. 2016

The statue Robert E. Lee was located in Market Street Park (formerly Emancipation Park, and before that Lee Park) and was the center of controversy regarding its removal. As part of the movement for the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials, on June 7, 2021, Charlottesville City Council (2020-2021) voted unanimously to remove this statue, as well as the statue of Confederate general "Stonewall" Jackson.[1] Both statues were removed on July 10, 2021. Unlike the statues of Confederate leaders on Richmond's Monument Avenue that were removed in 2020, there were no pedestals left to mark the sites in Charlottesville where Confederate statues were removed.

Emancipation Park site plan, 2017. (Jen Trompetter)


While working on the statue of Lee, Shardy continued his work on the sculpture of Lee's chief nemesis during the Civil War, Union general Grant; began in 1902, it was the largest ever commissioned by Congress at the time. His best-known sculpture, The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial sits at the base of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Shrady died, stressed and overworked on April 12, 1922, while still at work on the Lee project and two weeks before dedication of the Grant Memorial. The statue was erected in 1924 after being given to the city by Paul Goodloe McIntire. [2]


On March 14, 1918, at the regular monthly meeting of the Common Council, Mayor E. G. Haden, transmitted to the Charlottesville City Council, 1916-1918 the following communication received from Paul G. McIntire:

New York, Feb. 25, 1918.
Hon. E. G. Haden, Mayor, Charlottesville, Va.
Dear Mr. Haden, It is a great pleasure to me that the City of Charlottesville accepted the Park and Monument in memory of my parents, and I feel that in the great crisis through which we are now passing that the thought of Lee will help us to do what he considered the noblest word in the English language, '“OUR DUTY”. I have the honor to remain, Sincerely yours, Paul G. McIntire.

Historical references: The Armistice was signed between France, Britain, and Germany on November 11, 1918, bringing four years of fighting in the First World War to an end. Lee wrote in September of 1865 that the issues between the North and South had been decided and he believed “it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration of the country, and the reestablishment of peace & harmony.”

McIntire is said to have expressed an interest in replicating the statue of Lee erected by the Commonwealth of Virginia at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1917. He is also said to have suggested to Shrady that the bronze for the statue be cast from cannons used by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, although he later learned that it would not be possible to acquire the guns needed to do so.

An artist recommended to McIntire by celebrated American sculptor Daniel Chester French, Henry M. Shrady, created the original conception of the statue.[3] But Shrady died before casting it. His last words were “keep the canvas wet -- keep the canvas wet." His doctors and nurses thought he was delirious, but in fact he was entreating them to keep wet the canvas cover over his preliminary clay model of the Lee statue. Unfortunately over the next months the clay dried out, cracked, and the model was lost.[3]

Shrady was replaced by artist Leo Lentelli, who patterned the design of the sculpture on an existing memorial to Lee standing at Gettysburg. Lentelli took pains with accuracy, including traveling to Richmond to measure Lee’s equipment "down to the galleons on the General’s sleeve.”[3]

The bronze was cast by Roman Bronze Works. McIntire had hoped to use melted down Confederate cannons for the sake of sentiment, but there were none to be found in 1923. Walter D. Blair, architect, designed the granite pedestal for the statue. McIntire had suggested a dedication to his mother Catherine McIntire but it was omitted from the pedestal's final design. There was no inscription, other than the simple name Robert Edward Lee, because it was thought "any other wording or decoration would be superfluous."[3]

The statue was unveiled at a ceremony May 21, 1924 by Mary Walker Lee, the three year old granddaughter of General Lee. University of Virginia President Alderman made the speech of acceptance at the dedication ceremony, saying:

“Here it shall stand during the ages at the center of our lives, teaching, through the medium of beauty, the everlasting lesson of dignity and character, of valor and unselfish service . . . in the majesty of his manner. And now, in this hour of reunion and reconciliation, we know how . . . he symbolized the future for us as it has come to pass, and bade us to live in it, in liberal and lofty fashion, with hearts unspoiled by hate and eyes clear to see the deeds of a new and mightier day.”[3]

The statue was conceived by Henry M. Shrady, completed by Leo Lentelli, and presented to the City in 1924. [2] The reveal of the statue was celebrated with a reunion of confederate soldiers, a parade, and a speech by University of Virginia President, Edwin A. Alderman. [4]

“An equestrian monument conceived by Henry M. Shrady and completed after his death by Leo Lentelli. Presented May 21, 1924, it is located in Lee Park which had already been presented to the City by McIntire. No evidence of the cost of this work has been found despite diligent search. The records of both contracting parties has been destroyed but Leo Lentelli, who completed Shardy’s work and who has assisted Shrady on other similar art works, insisted that the correct figure of cost is $35,000.00” [5]

Paul Goodloe McIntire Gifts to the City Value Value in 2019 dollars
Lee Park: Given in memory of his parents; to be used as a park (1917) Park $25,000.00 $501,115.23
Robert E. Lee Statue (1924) Monument $35,000.00 $528,234.41

Source: James Collier Marshall to Albemarle Historical Society, April 30, 1958. Other gifts are mentioned in House Joint Resolution No. 158 Commemorating the life of Paul G. McIntire on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Calls for removal

On March 22, 2016, Councilor Wes Bellamy and activist Zyahna Bryant held a press conference in what was then Lee Park to call for the Lee statue to be removed as well a renaming of the park. [6]

Action for removal

Charlottesville City Council (2016-2017) voted 3-2 on February 6, 2017 to move the statue to a new location. [7]

The statue was briefly wrapped in a tarp under orders of Charlottesville City Council (2016-2017).[8] The tarp was repeatedly removed by citizens supporting the statue's existence. The tarp was decided to be a likely violation of the state's Memorials for War Veterans law and permanently removed by the City. The statue is currently surrounded by orange safety fence with numerous signs indicating that that is a violation of city ordinance to go beyond the fence.

Lawsuit over removal

Twelve Plaintiffs (listed in the following section) among them local lawyers, military veterans, Charlottesville citizens and taxpayers, relatives of the donor McIntire and of artist Henry Shrady, and two organizations: the Monument Fund, Inc. and Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, filed a suit in March 2017 claiming that Council's action to remove the statue was illegal under Virginia law. The suit stated the statue and the Stonewall Jackson Statue are war memorials and protected. The suit asked for an injunction barring Council from moving both statues pending a ruling from Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Robert Moore. [9] [7]

At a hearing on September 1, Moore asked the public to stop contacting his office to sway the decision. That hearing was on a motion for the judge to dismiss the suit based on a 1997 amendment to state law that extended protection of war memorials to cities. At the hearing, Moore did state the plaintiffs had standing. [10]

In October 2019 Judge Moore awarded the Plaintiffs a permanent injunction against removing the Lee (and Jackson) monuments, and then in January 2020, Moore awarded the plaintiffs over $360,000 in attorney's fees to be paid by the city of Charlottesville, plus six percent interest until paid in full. [11]

The city appealed their loss in June 2020 to the Virginia Supreme Court. On April 1, 2020 the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the Circuit Court's ruling in a final judgement, finding that the relevant Virginia State Code § 15.2-1812 does not apply retroactively to statues built before it's enactment in 1997.[12] This order reversed and vacated all previous judgments and orders of the circuit court, and all forms of relief granted to the plaintiffs.


There were 11 individuals and two organizations who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. This list is in order of appearance in the brief filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court on March 20, 2017:


The suit originally named the City of Charlottesville and the five members of City Council as defendants. The individual councilors were later dropped from the case, and the case proceeded against just the City of Charlottesville and its governing body, City Council.

Suit materials

The University of Virginia law school has collected many (though not all) of the filings in the case on their website.[13]


  1. Web. Charlottesville city council votes to remove Confederate statues that were the focus of violent 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally, Gregory S. Schneider, News Article, the Washington Post, June 7, 2021, retrieved June 8, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. Lee Park, City of Charlottesville, retrieved September 16, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Robert Kuhlthau, Preliminary Notes on the Robert E. Lee Statue, 20 September 1995, (on deposit Albemarle Historical Society, Monuments file).
  4. Rourke. Kristen. "Marking History in Charlottesville." np. City Council Chambers, Charlottesville, VA. 30 May 2012. presentation.
  5. Marshall, James Collier. Research paper: “The Gifts of Paul Goodloe McIntire” Charlottesville, VA. April 30, 1958, excerpt from printed copy, collection of Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.
  6. Web. Rally to remove Robert E. Lee statue brings flagwavers, Samantha Baars, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, March 22, 2016, retrieved June 20, 2018. Print. March 22, 2016 .
  7. 7.0 7.1 Web. Groups File Lawsuit to Stop Removal of Confederate Statues, NBC29 Staff, News Article, NBC29, Charlottesville, Virginia, March 20, 2017, retrieved September 16, 2017.
  8. Web. Three arrested as councilors vote to shroud Confederate statues at meeting overwhelmed by anger, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, August 22, 2017, retrieved September 16, 2017. Print. August 22, 2017 page A1.
  9. Web. Lawsuit seeks to stop removal of Confederate statue in Virginia, Justin Wm. Moyer, News Article, Washington Post, March 24, 2017, retrieved September 16, 2017.
  10. Web. Charlottesville judge delays ruling on challenge to Confederate statue removal; asks groups to stop calling his office, Ned Oliver, News Articlee, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 1, 2017, retrieved September 16, 2017.
  11. Web. Judge to order city to pay $365k to cover plaintiffs' lawyers in statue case, Tyler Hammel, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, January 22, 2020, retrieved January 31, 2020. Print. January 22, 2020 page A1.
  13. Web. Charlottesville Statues, U Va law School Staff