The Commonwealth will pay nearly $500,000 or more to remove and replace the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol. In charge of the project is the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol, created for the sole purpose of removing the Lee statue from the National Statuary Hall Collection.
The projected costs total $498,500 – funds the commission says could total more or less in the coming months. Its estimate comes from other states’ costs for similar projects.
“This includes the costs to design, construct, transport, and replace the new statue for the transport of the Robert E. Lee statue, and/or the unveiling of the new statue,” explained Julie Langan, the commission’s ex-officio member and Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director/State Historic Preservation Officer.
Additionally, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture (VMHC) will receive the statue. Langan shared that the statue must be removed “over the weekend and at night” so as not to disrupt the U.S. Capitol proceedings. Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) undertook similar measures to remove Confederate and historical monuments from the State Capitol.
Filler-Corn was found guilty of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for untruthful statements about the existence of documents relating to the removed monuments. According to the bill creating the commission, Filler-Corn was also responsible for appointing one of the commission members.
Public commentary reflected desires to reconsider removal of the statue, removal only and no replacement, and specific suggestions for replacements. Many letters asked that the Lee statue not be removed.
Otherwise, some suggested replacement monuments including: Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall, and Booker T. Washington. The commission didn’t select a replacement during their meeting. Instead, they plan to spend several months reviewing nominations.
The commission released a draft of values and attributes to serve as criteria for the replacement monument. The nomination must represent one individual with significant association to ideals, writings, intellectualism, and/or historical impact.
Additionally, the nomination must exemplify valor, patriotism, and bravery, and must be a Virginia resident or impactful to the state. Additionally, “the person should not be in conflict with current prevailing values.” The commission doesn’t explain further the values referenced.
The commission also passed a motion to allow school-aged children to submit nominations.
Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) is the Chair of the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol. Lucas is also facing felony charges for her role in a protest this past June, in which protestors critically injured a man when they pulled down another monument.
In an interview with The Virginia Star, Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) criticized the whole purpose of the commission.
“They’ve put a fox in the henhouse. Look, if Senator Lucas is so concerned about helping the minority, then maybe she should invest in people who are living instead of inanimate statues. I reject any attempt to censor our history – I think it’s not representative of ‘we the people,’ who I’m talking to across Virginia. I think it’s important to protect and defend our history,” stated Chase. “That’s the problem with career politicians. It’s time to support my legislation to limit terms for these career politicians.”
Spokespersons with the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol didn’t respond by press time.
Over the next two months, the commission will conduct the selection process for the replacement statue. The commission will begin accepting public comment from October 16 until November 13.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Robert E Lee Statue Defaced” by Mk17b. CC BY-SA 4.0.