Robert E. Lee Statue

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The statue Robert E. Lee is located in Market Street Park and has been the center of controversy regarding its slated removal. On June 7, 2021, Charlottesville City Council voted unanimously to remove the statue, as well as the statue of Confederate general "Stonewall" Jackson.[1]


Ambox notice.png This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

History

The statue was erected in 1924 after being given to the city by Paul Goodloe McIntire. [2]

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. [3]

“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” [4]

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. [5]

Action for removal

Council voted 3-2 on February 6, 2017 to move the statue to a new location. [6]

The statue was briefly wrapped in a tarp under orders of City Council.[7] 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. [8] [6]

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. [9]

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. [10]

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.[11] This order reversed and vacated all previous judgments and orders of the circuit court, and all forms of relief granted to the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs

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

Defendants

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.[12]

References

  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. Rourke. Kristen. "Marking History in Charlottesville." np. City Council Chambers, Charlottesville, VA. 30 May 2012. presentation.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 .
  6. 6.0 6.1 Web. Groups File Lawsuit to Stop Removal of Confederate Statues, NBC29 Staff, News Article, NBC29, Charlottesville, Virginia, March 20, 2017, retrieved September 16, 2017.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1200790.pdf
  12. Web. Charlottesville Statues, U Va law School Staff