Va. commission votes to remove Lee statue from US Capitol; process for replacement starts


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — A commission formed during this year’s General Assembly session to decide the future of Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue at the U.S. Capitol Building voted unanimously Friday to remove it.

The Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol made the recommendation during a virtual public meeting that featured several speakers, including Gov. Ralph Northam.

“The Robert E. Lee statue does not tell our full and true story, and it has never represented all Virginians,” Northam said. “I commend the Commission’s righteous decision to remove this relic from the halls of Congress and replace it with a new statue that embodies the inclusive Commonwealth we aspire to be.”

Related: Virginia still can’t remove Robert E. Lee statue as Richmond judge decides to take lawsuit ‘under advisement’

The Lee statue is one of two that stands in the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The other is George Washington, who was from Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Northam’s office says he’ll now send the commission’s decision to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress requesting the immediate removal of the Lee statue.

The commission will now start work on a recommendation to the General Assembly for a replacement statue depicting a “prominent Virginia citizen of historic renown or renowned for distinguished civil or military.”

One of the speakers, Newport News Councilman David Jenkins, recommended legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, who was born and left a lasting legacy in Newport News.

The commission will now also be tasked with finding a sculptor for the new statue, with preference given to a Virginia native.They’ll also have to estimate costs associated with the new statue, removal of the Lee statue, and a ceremony for the statue’s unveiling. They’ll also have to recommend to the General Assembly a museum to place the Lee statue after its removal.

At least one public hearing is required before the commission makes a recommendation to the General Assembly on a new statue. The date has yet to be announced.

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