On Monday, I visited an impressive statue in a Dallas, Texas city park. The statue depicts Robert E. Lee and a fellow soldier riding their horses next to each other.
Wednesday of last week, the Dallas city council voted to remove the statue from the park, which is named after Lee and also contains a building modeled after Lee’s Virginia home. The removal process began within an hour after the vote. But, after delays due to a temporary restraining order and a vehicular crash involving the crane intended to aid in removing the statue, the statue was still present in the park on Monday. Recently erected barriers, though, blocked approaching closer to the statue than, I estimate, about seventy feet in any direction.
From reading a plaque near the statue, I learned that the statue was created by sculptor A. Phimister Proctor and was unveiled in the park on June 12, 1936 by then-United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt, in his quite brief speech at the unveiling, clearly expressed great admiration for Lee. Roosevelt’s praise for Lee contrasts with the disparagement of Lee that has helped bring about the removal from public view over the last few months of Lee statues in states from California to Texas to Louisiana to North Carolina.
Here is Roosevelt’s speech:
I am very happy to take part in this unveiling of the statue of General Robert E. Lee.
All over the United States we recognize him as a great leader of men, as a great general. But, also, all over the United States I believe that we recognize him as something much more important than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.
In addition to speaking, as reported at the time at the Dallas Morning News, Roosevelt pulled a ribbon to cause the statue to be revealed.
If more people knew of Roosevelt’s expression of such an opinion regarding the general who commanded of the Army of Northern Virginia, would politicians be voting to remove statues of Roosevelt across America and to eliminate Roosevelt’s name from streets, parks, and institutions as well?
Those actions may not be far off. The effort to purge historical figures from recognition in public art and otherwise extends far beyond removing representations of and references to individuals who, like Lee, were involved in the Confederate States of America (CSA). And some of this purge effort is taking place outside the political process. For example, people have vandalized statues of Christopher Columbus in multiple cities in the past few weeks. Similarly, prior to the vote to remove it, the Lee statue in Dallas had been subjected to vandalism.
In my June of 2015 Ron Paul Institute article “If You Want to Get Rid of ‘Racist Flags,’ How About Starting with the American Flag?” I critiqued the effort to banish from view flags, statues, and just about anything else that some people interpret as promoting the CSA or racism.
Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.