Letter to the Editor: Keep “Lee,” but change the historical person

Richard Margolies, '66, Guest Writer

The Lee in the name of the university can be retained, but the historical person can and should be changed.  

Instead of Lee standing for Col. Robert E. Lee (he never reached General in our Army, the US Army) the Lee name should stand for his father, Henry ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee.  Robert was a traitor to our country.  His father was a patriot, General, and friend of George Washington.  The son fought against our country, trying to preserve White supremacy and the enslavement of our African American brothers and sisters.  The father fought for the independence of our country from British tyranny.  The father fought to create our country, the son fought to tear it apart.

The son, Robert, was an educational innovator.  He raised funds and kept the financially faltering Washington College alive. He should be honored for these institutional contributions by retaining his statue on the front lawn, by plaques on campus, and in the university history, noting at the same time his patriotic and moral flaws.  His qualities of character can be honored also.  

However, his failures as a US patriot, as a moral person, and as a Christian humanist should not continue to be overlooked and minimized.  We should all be honest about our failures and flaws as human beings.  

Our famed center of education, our W&L, can achieve greater renown when it decides to no longer honor a man who never renounced his betrayal of our country and remained devoted to human enslavement.  Our university will gain more honor in honoring Robert’s father, a true US patriot, hero, and US General, who fought as a colleague of our other General, George Washington.

Another part of our university stepping up in honor by having Lee be Henry ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee would be arranging with Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert, to receive his interred remains.  A solemn black cortege with police escorts could move the remains with a fitting ceremony.  This would be news-worthy and bring national and international attention to our university’s stepping up morally, and stepping forward into the 21st century.