Will The Robert E. Lee Statue Controversy Wreak Havoc on Turtle Creek Real Estate?

Share News:

This statue of Robert E. Lee overlooks Lee Park in Dallas. Could removing this statue celebrating a controversial Confederate leader hurt Turtle Creek real estate?

[Editor’s Note: This post reflects the opinion of the writer and should not be interpreted as the editorial position of CandysDirt.com.]

I lived in Dallas for at least 10 years when I asked someone, “Who is Lee Park named after?” I assumed it was a great city forefather.

Robert E. Lee, I was told; the man who surrendered to Union troops in the bitter War Between the States, the only civil war in U.S. history.

Now, a movement that is growing like a snowball rolling down a mountainside — and crescendoed Saturday night at an anti-hate rally reportedly attended by thousands in front of Dallas City Hall — wants our city to rid itself of Lee Park’s eponymous statue. Duke University removed their statutes yesterday. However, this is also not an overnight movement: some Dallas City Council members have been working on a removal since last April.

I’m not sure if changing the name of the park will follow. The statue was built in Dallas during the Depression in 1936, when the Civil War was well over. Though the war ended, deeply rooted racism was not wiped out with Lee’s unconditional surrender at Appomatox Courthouse in 1865.

I’m not a native Southerner, so I have to wonder why the statue was erected in the first place. This is not Lee’s hometown; he was a native of Virginia. After Virginia, Texas has the largest collection of  Robert E. Lee monuments in the nation.

Why look up to a man who fought to let human beings own other human beings?

And last week, Jennifer Staubach Gates, City Councilwoman in District 13, who is making a lot of mayoral-like noise, wrote her conservative, wealthy constituents that the statue must come down:

My office has received a number of inquiries about the removal of Confederate statues in the City of Dallas, so I want to be clear on my position. 

I strongly support the removal of these statues. Symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazis, the KKK or other hate groups are unacceptable and must be removed from public spaces that serve all of our citizens, including our public schools. The issue should not be whether or not they are removed, but rather the process of how they are removed, and I look forward to an open dialog on moving forward. 

The sooner we complete this process and remove these unacceptable symbols in public spaces, the stronger we will be as a City. If you have questions about this issue or thoughts on the process, please feel free to contact my office.

There was a bayonet in our Illinois basement with my paternal grandfather’s name etched on it. Apparently, he got it from his grandfather, who, I was told, fought in the Civil War for the Union. Unfortunately, my grandfather died right before I was born, so I never got the whole story. 

The American Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in history, and it was a fight for economic power. Owning slaves enabled tobacco, cotton, and other plantation economies to be highly lucrative. On a recent trip to Cuba, I learned that Cuba was one of the last countries to shed slavery because of the sugar plantations: owners needed cheap labor, as they always have. 

The Civil War also saw a dramatic shift in war tactics from conflicts of the past. It was the beginning of the end of the edged weapons that had dominated warfare. In the Civil War, fighting moved from the close-range, melee-on-the-ground battle to medium-range shootouts and long-range artillery duels.

But they still issued swords and bayonets in the 1860s. 

I firmly do not believe in rewriting history, because the purpose of history is to learn from our predecessors’ mistakes and, hopefully, not repeat them. But does a man whose movement was defeated still get to be immortalized as a hero?

To me, Union-born, Robert Edward Lee is a loser, though William Murchison, a conservative former editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, believes Lee was a remarkable man:

At war’s end he wished nothing more and nothing less than to bind up the terrible wounds caused by four years of bloody conflict. He knew what had gone wrong. He wished that things might be right again for a united American people.

Murchison tells us that Lee became a conciliator once the war was over, telling Southern men to abandon all opposition, to regard the United States as their country, and to labor for peace and harmony and better understanding. He reversed himself, much as he did when he surrendered at the very place where he said he would never surrender. The Union prevailed, and I don’t want us to forget it because anyone who tries to slip into the hideous barbaric nature of man (that, I think, resides in all of us), needs to know they are going to lose, again and again:  

“Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.” 

Abraham Lincoln (in the context of The American Civil War of 1861 to 1865) 

I am concerned about Dallas real estate that surrounds Lee Park — some of the most exquisite high rises in the city. Turtle Creek is our luxury condo row. 

And while it may not be a bad idea to take time to not just study the removal of these Confederacy relics, but to discuss openly what we should do, as Mayor Rawlings advocates, I personally don’t think we have time. I think the statues honoring these heroes of a long-obsolete Confederacy should go. Take it to a museum where it will be protected and maintained and used as a lesson in American History.

“I think we should keep the horse, but take Lee off it,” says Scott Carlson with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s. “I think we need a statute of Maya Angelou and perhaps some children, to show how Dallas has progressed. We are a city, after all, that knows a whole lot about healing.”

That we are, that we are.

Plus, Lee Park is surrounded by some of the most beautiful high rise properties in the city. If the statute stays up another three months, could that hurt property values? What do you think?

Posted in

Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions


  1. John Sieber says

    Have you ever put your hands on a bronze statue, it is cold and clammy like a dead person The statue is old bones and cold. Pick your battles for the living and our collective happiness. Put it into a museum for old politics, put this dead Caesar to rest in a museum so the few who want to breath life into it can visit its cold form

  2. Robin Mitchell says

    This whole controversy is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t imagine anyone looking at that statue and celebrating slavery. Why are we erasing history? Educate and learn. Don’t ever make those same mistakes. We haven’t had slaves for over a 100 years. Celebrate THAT.

  3. Eric W Miller says

    I just penned a letter to the editor suggesting the rider less horses idea. Proctor was famous for his animals. Is a postmortem creation possible? And yes, change the name back to Oak Lawn Park. P.s. Lee is important to Texas history, but that’s probably not why his statue is there.

  4. Tim Chaney says

    Here’s my idea. Change the name of Lee Park to Ron Kirk Park. As you mentioned Lee had no direct connection to Dallas. Renaming the park after Dallas’ first African-American mayor would send the message that all are welcome, even in one of our city’s finest neighborhoods.
    And the Lee statue? I’m for removal but then again maybe there would be a subtle irony in leaving it up.

  5. renato says

    Why was the statue erected in the first place? (1) Lee was a hero of the Mexican War and spent a lot of time in Texas. I believe that his last posting in the federal army was in San Antonio. (2) Perhaps most importantly, Lee probably loved his Texas troops best. He called for his Texas soldiers with his dying breath just as he had at the crucial points of famous battles like Gaines’ Mill during the Seven Days and Second Manassas. (3) Lee was an appropriate counterpoint to express Texans’ special hatred of Lincoln and his bizarre claim that Texas was the creation of the federal government and that the negotiations 16 years before between the Tyler administration and an independent Texas nation had no meaning. People need to understand that Lee Park in Dallas was introduced coincident with the establishment of the Lee Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and, through the Arlington House replica, reflects the historic fact backed up by the United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Lee (1882) that Mrs. Lee’s home was confiscated Nazi-style by Lincoln and his flunkies. (Mrs. Lee, great-grand-daughter of Martha Washington and son of George Washington’s adopted son was confined to a wheelchair at the time and went on to lose a daughter, daughter-in-law, and two young grand children during the course of the war). If the federal government
    could come to terms with the Lee legacy to the point that it established a Lee memorial literally in the midst of federal graves at Arlington National Cemetery, what the hell is someone like Jennifer Staubach Gates talking about? As for Lee as a loser, consider the successive battles of The Seven Days, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville tacked on to Stonewall Jackson’s four victories in the valley campaign. The only blemish for the ten successive battles was Antietam which was a battlefield draw and part of a campaign that included the federal surrender of Harpers Ferry. I am glad the
    Holocaust Museum is involved in reviewing the matter. Its administrators should have special insight in
    understanding the type of property crime that Lincoln committed against Mrs. Lee.

      • renato says

        The truth on top of the truth on top of the truth hurts doesn’t it? As Vince Young would say, who’s the Nazi?

    • Barry Leonard says

      You can add on that after the Land was confiscated several of the pastures were used to bury both Union and Confederate soldiers and these pastures today is called Arlington National Cemetery. Nancy Pelosi and the ranking Democrats are demanding the removal of all confederate statues are they also wanting the removal of all confederate soldiers from the National Cemetery. These men both Union and Confederate are American Honored Dead and Arlington National Cemetery is Hallowed Ground.
      Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation was given 17 months after the Civil War started and it was a threat presented to the southern states that if by Jan 1 of 1863 the south and not ended it’s rebellion the Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect that sounds more like a threat then an order to free the slaves. General Robert E. Lee was a top graduate of West point and also served as Commandant of West Point for Several Years. He was against the South Seceding from the union but agreed to Secede because he was a sincere believer in States Rights. Confederate Statues have never been a problem until now that the left needs a rally point for their continued violence, all because they are unable to except the results of and Election. The continued attack on History and the rewriting of History by the Democrats must stop.

    • Patrick Sparks says

      Very accurate analogy. Lee was summoned to the White House by Lincoln and offered command of the entire Union. Lee responded that if his home, Virginia, remained in the Union he would take command. But, he also stated that he would not draw his sword against Virginia, his home. The mindset of men a 150 years ago was quite different than today. Their world evolved around their home state, not the United States. My family were among some of the first settlers of Collin County. They were farmers. They didn’t own slaves nor condone slavery. Collin County and most of the Red River voted to remain in the Union. They were out voted on the issue by other Texas counties. Sam Houston resigned as Governor of Texas because of Texas secession from the Unio. My ancestors entered the Confederate forces not to defend slavery but to defend homes and beloved Texas!

  6. Christopher Ekstrom says

    Absolute RUBBISH! If that statue goes anywhere it will be after one hell of a no-holds bared F-I-G-H-T!

  7. Rick says

    You have no idea about Lee and what he did before, during and after the Civil War. I live across from Lee park and this will further make Dallas the city of Hate once again. Hat due to ignorance.

  8. Ross H says

    General Lee also fought to protect his home state from an overbearing federal government. Perhaps Californians and others who resent the current federal government should consider the irony.

  9. Kathy says

    Everybody keeps calling this “hate” but it is really oppression. Slavery was oppression not hate. Many slave owners were afraid of their slaves due to knowing their oppression made the slaves hate the masters but few owners truly hated their slaves. It is oppressing a people that one thinks are less than or sub-human or not deserving of the same rights. Once we start calling it oppression, then statues that glorify oppressors seem ridiculous. Segregation, lack of civil rights, uneven educational opportunities are also oppression, not hate. Many people feel its fine for North Dallas to have better housing and schools and jobs but they don’t hate other people, they just feel entitled or better than others. Let’s get our terms right so this dialogue makes sense.

  10. Joe Hill says

    Interesting that the commotion over civil war figures has become such a controversy now instead of the 40’s-60’s when descendants of the war were still active. History says that Ulysses Grant’s family owned slaves as did 60+% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Grant’s writings indicate he felt Mexicans were lower class. It was a different time throughout the world. When South Africa ended apartheid, slavery was basically abolished throughout the world. We have come so far, why are we having attacks on our police. What is the next step for the protesters of historical monuments? Should we blow up the mountain faces in South Dakota or destroy all statues of any historical figures that owned slaves over 160 years ago? That would include the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, among others in Washington, DC

  11. Eric says

    We’re all talking about the monument, but the house there (Arlington Hall) is a model of Lee’s house in Virginia. Even without the statue, it’s still a Lee shrine.

    • renato says

      Lee resided there when he was not posted elsewhere, but in no way, shape or form was it his house. The house
      was owned by his father-in-law who died in 1857. Lee’s wife inherited a life estate in the property with the
      remainder fee interest to her son Custis who eventually won the Supreme Court case restoring ownership of the property to the Lees after Lincoln stole it. There are three structures as part of the Lee Park presentation: the statue, the inscribed bench, and the Arlington House replica. How they all fit together is subject to interpretation. There is no doubt that the Supreme Court case involving the house was an important property rights case and a kind of restoration of the traditional rule of law in the aftermath of the war, another contribution the Lees made to the reconciliation of the nation.

        • renato says

          Excellent question as is the issue of why the sculptor included the youthful rider in the statue. This is why Lee Park is so interesting and educational. A plaque at the park correctly indicates that the other rider could not be said to depict a staff member – too young – and then goes on to claim inclusion because Lee was said to inspire the youth of the South. This seems preposterous and even creepy given that 20+% of the Southern white adult male population was killed in the war and the other rider is in uniform. Much more likely that the rider was included to address the two main points of contemporary criticism of Lee: (1) Pickett’s charge, which so embittered Longstreet and Pickett and most poignantly to Southerners resulted in the literal annihilation of the Ole Miss student body, and (2) the continuation of the war beyond reason with increased reliance on very young soldiers like Thomas Jefferson’s nephew and namesake killed at New Market late in the war as a 17-year-old. Whatever apology offered by the statue hardly covers for the pain that it evokes. My preferred explanation for the Arlington House replica is that it is intended to
          reflect not only the virtue of the sacrifice the Lees made in walking away from the property
          to serve Virginia and the South but also the thoroughly base nature of Lincoln’s character as
          exemplified by his seizure of the property. This is what Lee Park means to me. Less likely but also possible that the site was intended as some kind of double monument given that I believe that the original Arlington House was at about the same time itself established as
          the monument to Lee at Arlington National cemetery. What relation any of this could have had to what was going on in Washington D.C. at the time is beyond me, but FDR clearly seemed interested in associating himself with Southern symbols and he of course presided at the park’s inauguration. Also, there are passages in letters where Lee calls the
          Arlington property his favorite place, but this seems like a weak explanation for the inclusion of the replica especially given the seriousness of the issues reflected in the statue.
          Finally, the Lees, once millionaires several times over in today’s dollars excluding the value of the inherited slaves manumitted in the second year of the war, were left homeless with limited resources after the war. Many common soldiers offered them their homes. The message could be that the Lees will always have a home in Texas.

          • Rebecca says


            “Phillips says the myth that Lee was a benevolent slave owner is part of the problem and is one of the lies these monuments create. There is an account where one of Lee’s slaves was whipped 50 times and had his wounds rubbed with salt. Lee was opposed to any political rights for blacks, and the constitution he defended prohibited the abolishment of slavery.”

            Yeah, I’m not interested in any hero worship of Robert E. Lee.

          • renato says

            What myth that Lee was a benevolent slaveholder? All I have ever read is that he owned four slaves I think at one point while serving in the U.S. military. The only
            commentary that I have read about Lee’s dealing with slaves has to do with the settling of the estate of his father-in-law who died in 1857. Under the terms of the will, the Custis slaves were to be freed in five years, which was done despite the war. Supposedly big arguments were advanced by the the slaves that they should be freed immediately. Your slave-whipping story lacks any legitimate basis as does the ridiculous story that Lee stripped a female slave naked and whipped her himself. All this is dealt with in the recent biography by Michael Korda, a legitimate author without an ideological or cultural axe to grind. Lee did testify before Congress shortly after the war and supposedly advised against expansive
            political rights for newly-freed blacks in the South. Am not sure about the Confederate constitution reference but the notion that slavery would not have ended over time in an independent Confederacy as it did everywhere else seems specious. Doubt that Lee had time to worry about this issue at a time when his state was being invaded. Finally, you need to take into account the in-bred bias of all of this anti-Southern literature. The over-the-top Sally Hemings / Thomas Jefferson speculation, included even in a recent Jefferson biography by Pulitzer prize winning author Jon Meacham, is a perfect example of this tendency.
            Given this environment, what would you expect from a race-obsessed joke like Phillips?

  12. Beau Beasley says

    I always thought the statues like Lee and others were just an oddity, or something we could look at and think “Wow, look how far we’ve come”. The people that find any direction from or are compelled to racism by these statues could all get together and meet in a phone booth. Why is this suddenly an issue? It’s just more liberal Trump-hating backlash and a manufactured controversy. We just had 8 years of a black President. 99% of Americans have moved on.

      • Barry Leonard says

        No Eric the Media made it an issue. The Groups that were there to start were nationalists protesting the removal of the Statue of Lee. They had a permit, the Media labeled them Anti American. We also had the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood represented by the American Nazi group,the Left was represented by Antifa, Black Lives Mater and the Black panthers. in addition we had people from the local city and colleges who didn’t represent anyone they were just there. And let me say again the only people that had a permit were the Nationalists, there was violence attributed to both sides and I will be interested in finding out just how spontaneous the riots were seems like what the police are saying now it was planned. State Police say the Governor is lying and the local Police say the mayor ordered a stand down order.

        • renato says

          The Charlottesville murderer was a literal Nazi from Ohio. The last time I can remember something like this happened was John Brown’s raid, quelled by none other than Robert E. Lee
          in defense of the United States. A honest press would have immediately drawn the parallels,
          pointed out the irony of the situation, and stopped this statue mongering before it even started.

  13. Jeffrey Mann says

    Planning to tear down the Arlington House replica in Lee Park as well? You make no mention of the reproduction of Robert E. Lee’s Virginia home that also sits in the park.

    I am against removing Lee from the park named in his honor. His statue has nothing whatsoever to do with so-called white supremacy.

  14. Randy Heady says

    There is nothing classy about overreacting from left wing news media,Antifa, radical left wing extremists who are obsessed w political correctness.

  15. Denise H says

    It should be out in a confederate museum where those that want to revere the traitors can go see them. We are a progressive city and this is a symbol of hate no matter what people believe. They can crack open a book of they want to remember this vile history…it is deplorable to uphold these guys in a place of honor.

    • renato says

      Okay. The original Arlington House was built by George Washington’s adopted son in part as a memorial to the first president where his personal possessions could be kept and displayed. Robert E. Lee lived in it. Lincoln stole it. And FDR dedicated its replica in Dallas. I suggest that that would make it the only architectural representation ever so closely connected to four of the five most important personages in American history.
      Yet you think that you and your corrupt ideology are so important as to imbue you with the right to destroy such a public monument based on your own petty biases. Beyond pathetic.

  16. B. G. says

    I feel there is an arrogance to this stance of re-writing the history and what matters. I have never looked at the statue and felt in any way it stands for any of the labels that the re-writers of history are all of sudden labeling it with. You have to understand the times when all this occurred and how people felt on both sides of the issue. Lee was a great man who lead a cause that he believed was correct. While he was clearly on the wrong side of history he also graduated top of his class at West Point and Lincoln asked him to command the Union army . He was deeply conflicted with a love of his state and home vs. the evils of slavery. As was the entire country including many people in the north. Now we want to punish him? Don’t you think the Hell he went through was punishment enough? His very home he loved and fought for was made into Arlington Cemetery. When I look at these statues and monuments I see an effort to heal a damaged nation not a symbol for the modern day labels that did not exist in even in the 1930’s when Mr. Democrat himself FDR came to the unveiling ceremony. Why is that FDR was okay with it and modern day America is not? Did he perhaps have a keener understanding of the times when he was president then we do now? Can we not learn from how people in the south recovered from total devastation? I see this as a way to prevent such things from happening again. Others see it as a symbol for labels and name calling. What has become apparent is that it is becoming a source of discontent and division.

  17. Trey Holcomb says

    At Appomattox, Lee’s subordinates, his own son among them, urged him to avoid capture, retreat to the Deep South and oversee a guerrilla style insurgency to continue the war. Had he followed the recommendations of those under his command, over whom he held the highest influence and loyalty, the war could have lasted another decade or longer and would without question have resulted in hundreds of thousands more deaths especially among American civilians including freedmen.

    Instead, General Robert Edward Lee insisted that his men peacefully and honorably lay down their arms, return to their homes, and in the spirit of brotherhood and reconciliation, begin the difficult task of admitting defeat and peacefully rebuilding their nation. THIS is the biggest, best, and most ignored reason that this man has correctly been memorialized as not just a Southern hero, but an American one. In a world scarred by the results of military leaders who in similar situations, chose the barbaric path of guerrilla warfare and generations of Balkan style bitterness and genocide; in a nation where too many are resentful and contemptuous when faced with any type of defeat, becoming the worst kind of sore losers, General Robert Lee stands as a monumental example of humility and grace in defeat. For that, and for the unknowable and inevitable death, destruction and untold suffering his decision at Appomattox saved his countrymen from, he should forever be memorialized and honored for what he is. A true American hero.

  18. Mike Franklin says

    Lee did not fight to protect slavery. He fought to protect his home state from hostile invaders. This is what most Southerners fought for. Before sorry lowlife developers run crying to the city government, pushing money under the table, I’d rather see the land for ten miles around the statue sown with salt.

  19. Charles Womack says

    It is well known that ISIS has a crusade of eliminating all symbols of history and prior civilizations who’s beliefs contradicted their own dogma. Lee is part of history. He was against slavery but fought for the states rights to reform themselves into a separate union. After the war, he spent his life trying to promote the transition of America to a non-slave society. I suggest that the statue remain with the addition of a prominent inscription of his well known quote decrying slavery. The statue should be titled ‘ Lee’s Defeat and the Surrender of Slavery in America ‘. Don’t erase history. Define it instead for what it means to us all at this time in history.

  20. Stephen Foster says

    What about the rest of them, Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin. So much effort in trying to erase the past. Where does it stop? They are now after our religious statues. I honestly feel sorry for those trying to cover over past mistakes. They are bound to do them again. Never mind the good some of these people have done, glose them over like they never existed.

  21. Eric Williams says

    If you are not an American of Southern birth and lineage you will never understand our passion. We do not stand for slavery but for the blood and guts of our heritage.

    Political correctness is unfortunately winning Do preserve them honorably and safely in an appropriate museum, but rename the park geographically and not after another person.

  22. renato says

    Speaking of handling the matter honorably, how exactly does the 2005 Tennessee Court of Appeals decision in Tennessee Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy v. Vanderbilt University bear on the outcome? The Tennessee lawsuit was a straight contract case with a fact situation much more favorable to the affected donors, but are we really supposed to believe that the Lee Park Conservatory raised over $5 million for Lee Park after the attempted Vanderbilt theft was well known without the Lee Park donors taking any means to protect themselves against a change to the park’s name or a removal of the statue and/or the Arlington House replica? And, what is honorable from the city’s prospective in any case? The Tennessee court gave short shrift to arguments about The UDC’s naming a building either translating into the appearance of the university supporting slavery or giving offense to black students. What do the critics of Lee Park have besides correlated arguments of the same type? And, do we really believe that the city is going to destroy a monument so closely tied as it is to the leading United States v. Lee Supreme Court property rights decision while doing to the Lee Park donors effectively what Lincoln sought to do to the Lees?

  23. Joe Hill says

    How do you feel about the firestorm you started? I hope you have studied the true history of General Robert E Lee and his contributions to Texas and the South and to rebuilding the Country at wars end.

  24. Lance says

    Edward C. Smith
    Saturday, August 21, 1999
    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

    Let me begin on a personal note. I am a 56-year-old, third-generation, African American Washingtonian who is a graduate of the D.C. public schools and who happens also to be a great admirer of Robert E. Lee’s.

    Today, Lee, who surrendered his troops to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House 134 years ago, is under attack by people — black and white — who have incorrectly characterized him as a traitorous, slaveholding racist. He was recently besieged in Richmond by those opposed to having his portrait displayed prominently in a new park.

    My first visit to Lee’s former home, now Arlington National Cemetery, came when I was 12 years old, and it had a profound and lasting effect on me. Since then I have visited the cemetery hundreds of times searching for grave sites and conducting study tours for the Smithsonian Institution and various other groups interested in learning more about Lee and his family as well as many others buried at Arlington.

    Lee’s life story is in some ways the story of early America. He was born in 1807 to a loving mother, whom he adored. His relationship with his father, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, (who was George Washington’s chief of staff during the Revolutionary War) was strained at best. Thus, as he matured in years, Lee adopted Washington (who had died in 1799) as a father figure and patterned his life after him. Two of Lee’s ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Mary Custis, was George Washington’s foster great-granddaughter.

    Lee was a top-of-the-class graduate of West Point, a Mexican War hero and superintendent of West Point. I can think of no family for which the Union meant as much as it did for his.

    But it is important to remember that the 13 colonies that became 13 states reserved for themselves a tremendous amount of political autonomy. In pre-Civil War America, most citizens’ first loyalty went to their state and the local community in which they lived. Referring to the United States of America in the singular is a purely post-Civil War phenomenon.

    All this should help explain why Lee declined command of the Union forces — by Abraham Lincoln — after the firing on Fort Sumter. After much agonizing, he resigned his commission in the Union army and became a Confederate commander, fighting in defense of Virginia, which at the outbreak of the war possessed the largest population of free blacks (more than 60,000) of any Southern state.

    Lee never owned a single slave, because he felt that slavery was morally reprehensible. He even opposed secession. (His slaveholding was confined to the period when he managed the estate of his late father-in-law, who had willed eventual freedom for all of his slaves.)

    Regarding the institution, it’s useful to remember that slavery was not abolished in the nation’s capital until April 1862, when the country was in the second year of the war. The final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was not written until September 1862, to take effect the following Jan. 1, and it was intended to apply only to those slave states that had left the Union.

    Lincoln’s preeminent ally, Frederick Douglass, was deeply disturbed by these limitations but determined that it was necessary to suppress his disappointment and “take what we can get now and go for the rest later.” The “rest” came after the war.

    Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the few civil rights leaders who clearly understood that the era of the 1960s was a distant echo of the 1860s, and thus he read deeply into Civil War literature. He came to admire and respect Lee, and to this day, no member of his family, former associate or fellow activist that I know of has protested the fact that in Virginia Dr. King’s birthday — a federal holiday — is officially celebrated as “Robert E. Lee-Stonewall Jackson-Martin Luther King Day.”
    Lee is memorialized with a statue in the U.S. Capitol and in stained glass in the Washington Cathedral.

    It is indeed ironic that he has long been embraced by the city he fought against and yet has now encountered some degree of rejection in the city he fought for.

    In any event, his most fitting memorial is in Lexington, Va.: a living institution where he spent his final five years. There the much-esteemed general metamorphosed into a teacher, becoming the president of small, debt-ridden Washington College, which now stands as the well-endowed Washington and Lee University.

    It was in Lexington that he made a most poignant remark a few months before his death. “Before and during the War Between the States I was a Virginian,” he said. “After the war I became an American.”

    I have been teaching college students for 30 years, and learned early in my career that the twin maladies of ignorance and misinformation are not incurable diseases. The antidote for them is simply to make a lifelong commitment to reading widely and deeply. I recommend it for anyone who would make judgment on figures from the past, including Robert E. Lee.

    [Dr. Smith is co-director of the Civil War Institute at American University in Washington, D.C.]

    • Sue Patterson says

      “…to make a lifelong commitment to reading widely and deeply. I recommend it for anyone who would make judgment on figures from the past, including Robert E. Lee.” It took me awhile but I learned to read and research wide and deep and in doing so made discoveries that changed the whole story about two small battles in a book I have written involving the Trans-Mississippi Civil War. One battle involved a Confederate general who went on to become a preacher and a mayor of Dallas. Thank you so very much for the article. Dr. Smith offered the best possible advice for everyone.

  25. Anita Maxwell says

    I am originally from Michigan, though I moved and have lived in the south most of my life. My heritage is from a Canadian French union soldier and Irish slave. I have never looked at a confederate statue and ever thought about slavery. Nor have I ever once heard any black person I know or have been around EVER mention a word against any monument or school, city or road that has a confederate symbol. These confederate items have only served to remind me of the civil war, period. The civil war is a substantial part of American history. I am completely against removing them. At this point, removing them just serves to appease a small group of hateful, lawbreaking, extremists who are using this to create havoc and who will not be satisfied and stop racially dividing this country even if all confederate monuments were removed.

  26. Vozz Darling says

    There has been people throughout history that have always thought they were better then others. If we destroy our history then we WILL be doomed to repeat it. Since the dawn of man, when the first caveman said to his cavefriend, “I have fire and you do not, therefore you must go fetch me more wood for my fire, because I am better and smarter than you, you worthless ape!” This man wasn’t black or white or Asian or even Jewish, he was just a man who for some god given reason thought he was better than his friend. And until we address the issue of that way of thinking then we WILL forever be doomed to repeat this behavior. It’s the train of thought that needs to change. Not a statue. Removing a statue doesn’t change the way people think or automatically make people feel that “Wow, the city of Dallas took down that Lee Statue, they must really love black people.” Our behavior towards each other and how we teach our children to be kind and that everyone is equal is how we change the world. Not ripping down statues and monuments and buildings. That just tell the future that we don’t want to learn from our mistakes. It keeps us all in check when we have these reminders. And personally I would rather remember and learn from my mistakes then trying to hide them. But as I write this I now realize that my opinion is no longer warranted. Why? Because I’m white. And I am no longer viewed as a member of society, just a “whitey” who is too stupid or ignorant to matter. Well in the grand scheme of things and all of the other more important crap we should be focused on neither should this. Martin Luther King is rolling in his grave at this stupidity.

  27. Rober E. Scott says

    Leaving the Robert E. Lee statue and monument will not have a negative impact on the Turtle Creek/Oak Lawn/Highland Park property value or desirability to live in the area. The monument, statue and hall have been located in that park for nearly a century. If the statue and monument go. So should the hall. Tear it all down and build another high rise condo development. God knows we could use another one. Most of the people living in Dallas didn’t even realize the statue, monument, hall and park even existed. History, good, bad or indifferent cannot be erased. This discussion would not even be occurring if it were not for one man. If you take the time to read my entire comment. Our Lee Park stands for tolerance, compassion, love of the arts and others.

    Lee Park and the Arlington Hall Conservancy are located on Turtle Creek Boulevard in the Oaklawn and Highland Park area of Dallas. The park is an urban oasis surrounded by multi million dollar high rise condo’s, offices and private homes. The park offers awesome views of Turtle Creek, the surrounding areas and downtown Dallas.

    I understand the sensitivity relating to monuments and statues that pay tribute to the Confederacy and what they represent to our society, past, present and beyond. However, Lee Park has an interesting history. It is the oldest park in Dallas, it was completed in 1909 and was originally named Oaklawn Park. In 1936 President Roosevelt, a Democrat, dedicated a monument and statue of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee on the park grounds at which time the park was officially renamed Lee Park. Three years later, Arlington Hall opened. The hall is an is an exact replica of Robert E. Lee’s Arlington, Virginia home.

    During the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s the park became a place for local hippies to meet and express their outrage over the Vietnam War and the Presidency during that timeframe. Beginning in the mid 1980’s the park began hosting the annual Dallas Gay Pride Festival, an event that welcomes all walks of life to come and celebrate the Dallas LGBT community. Additionally, during the mid 1980’s the park began hosting the Easter Day Dallas Sympathy Pooch Parade, Halloween Festival, and the first annual Dallas Walk for AIDS fundraiser. The park is considered a Dallas gem, and safe haven location for tributes and memorials unfortunate events, as well as a popular venue for wedding and receptions for Dallas celebrities and the elite.

    As Dallas has recently decided to remove the Robert E. Lee Statue and Monument in Lee Park, which as of today has been delayed. I thought it might be a good time to remind our city that this park, statue and monument aside, has come to represent so much more than hate. When all walks of life can sit, stand in, and enjoy a park named after a person that most consider represents hate and oppression, can gather and freely express themselves, their love for each other, life, the arts, the ill and the unfortunate. Sorry, in my opinion all of the emotions, expressions of love and acts of kindness to all show just how far we as a society have progressed. Yes, there is much more that needs to be done to improve race relations in this country. However, I feel that removing this particular statue and monument in this park feels like contradiction.  In closing I would also like to add that there is a memorial dedicated to slavery located in Lee Park.  My apologies for the extra long post, love to all and I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *