Robert E. Lee Memorial
One of the most significant Civil War monuments built resided in Dallas’ Lee Park in Dallas, Texas. General Robert E. Lee, is one of the most famous and well known names to come from the Civil War; both as a great military strategist, and as a great Confederate leader. The monument received the largest gathering in its history at the time of its unveiling in 1936. The ceremony was headed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt before his second presidential term Soldiers viewed him positively and he was seen truly as an honorable gentleman. FDR presented the monument as a symbol of Southern characteristics: courage and honor. Changing times and demographics left Southern Civil War monuments under heavy scrutiny, and the monument in Dallas was removed from its original position.
Backstory and Context
Robert E. Lee attended West Point at the age of eighteen where he graduated second in his class. He served as a captain in the Mexican War where he quickly became a well known military name. His superior, at the time, General Winfield Scott declared Lee as “the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field.” Before the Civil War commenced Lee had expressed his lack of interest in fighting in the war, but his home state of Virginia declared loyalty to the Confederacy and Lee returned to the military as a full general. Lee is known for his military allegiance to the South, but to his soldiers and comrades he was seen as a gentleman and a hero. A few years after Lee’s death Senator John W. Daniels expressed his personal belief, "When the line of battle formed Robert Lee took his place in the lines beside his people, his children, his kindred, his home. There can be no stronger or tenderer tie than that which binds the heart to kindred and home. And on that tie, spanning the heavens, riveted through eternity to the throne of God on High, and beneath it to the souls of good men and true, in that tie rests tho stainless and the immortal the famous Robert Lee."
The unveiling of the Statue was a momentous occasion for the State of Texas in 1936. Newspapers estimated that over 50,000 people were in attendance for the speech from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Newspapers such as the New York Times and the Sun both revealed that it was “The greatest crowd that the Lone Star State has ever known.” Patsy Davis, a Texas resident who was at the original unveiling in 1936, noted how President FDR praised the state of Texas for its 100 years of independence, and praised Robert E. Lee for being one of the nations best gentleman and leaders. Lee also played a key role in the Mexican American War securing the annexation of Texas. Davis expressed how there was still a lot of widowed Confederate families, and Confederate descendants who thought highly of the statue being placed there. More recently in the last few years that are more accounts that expressed their distaste of the statue, and how the statue represented a time of racism. The statue had been defaced and vandalized in response to protests against Confederate statues across the nation. The Dallas Chapter of the NAACP took a more peaceful approach by setting up meetings with Dallas officials to discuss their distaste for the statue. The head of the Dallas chapter stated, “If we are going to move forward in America, as Americans, we have to let go of those symbols.” The efforts of the Dallas community, and much of the nation, ended up with the result that they were hoping for; the removal of the statue in 2017.
The city officials had the statue removed in 2017 after a series of protests. Major pushes occurred against a lot of Confederate monuments in 2015 after a white supremacist murdered nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. There had been widespread debate for the removal of these monuments. Even a deadly protest occurred in early 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia where white supremacist groups clashed with protesters. Many were injured and a few were killed. This event is infamous for an incident where a white supremacist drove a car through the protesters. A month after this event the city council in Dallas had the Robert E. Lee statue removed. After the statues removal it was sold for 1,435,000 dollars to an anonymous buyer.
To many people Robert E. Lee lived as a true American would. He held honor above all else, and showed what it meant to be considered a true gentleman. The statue no longer represents the brave courage of a southern leader; instead it, along with other Confederate monuments, are viewed as representations of historic racism in today’s society. In a more ethnic diverse America Civil War monuments do not fit in. All across the country Confederate memorials and statues have received scrutiny to be removed from society; the Dallas city council removed the Lee statue, and changed the name of the park, to appeal to the citizens of the city. Though the monument was removed from its initial location it can still be visited on a golf course near the Texas-Mexico border.
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5. Robert E. Lee statue sells in Dallas for more than $1.4 million, CBS NEWS. June 6th 2019. Accessed December 16th 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/robert-e-lee-statue-sells-in-dallas-for-more-than-1-4-million/.
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8. Shinneman, Shawn. Dallas' Robert E. Lee Statue Has Landed at Black Jack's Crossing Near Terlingua, Dallas Magazine. September 20th 2019. Accessed December 18th 2019. https://www.dmagazine.com/frontburner/2019/09/dallas-robert-e-lee-statue-has-landed-at-black-jacks-crossing-in-terlingua/.
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Wilonsky, Robert . Dallas' Robert E. Lee sculpture is going, going, gone for more than $1.4M at online auction, The Dallas Morning News. June 5th 2019. Accessed December 18th 2019. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/06/05/dallas-robert-e-lee-sculpture-is-going-going-gone-for-more-than-1-4m-at-online-auction/.