HJR 710/SJR 382: Joint Subcommittee to Plan and Coordinate the 200th
Anniversary Celebration of the Birth of Robert E. Lee
The Joint Subcommittee
to Plan and Coordinate the 200th Anniversary Celebration of the Birth
of Robert E. Lee (Lee Commission), established by HJR 710 (Cline) and
SJR 382 (Hanger) has met two times. Membership includes legislative members,
as well as representatives from the Department of Education, the Department
of Tourism, the Department of Historic Resources, Washington & Lee
University, Stratford Hall, the Museum of the Confederacy, and the Sons
and Daughters of the Confederacy.
At the Commission's
first meeting, the members elected Delegate Benjamin L. Cline and Senator
Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. as co-chairmen. Senator Hanger said he was excited
about the opportunities the Commission would provide for generating tourism
in the Commonwealth and possibly producing revenue.
Delegate Cline said
that it was fitting that Lee's 200th birthday would take place in 2007,
when the state is also planning commemorative events related to the settlement
at Jamestown. The Jamestown celebration is focused on celebrating 400
years of history in the Commonwealth, and not just the events that took
place in 1607-it will be a celebration of Virginia's rich history past
and present. Cline said he considers Lee to be one of Virginia's greatest
sons, personifying many of Virginia's traditions. Lee is remembered for
his military career, but he was also an educator. He was well known for
his devotion to honor and religion, as well as his commitment to rebuilding
the solidarity of the Union.
was privileged to have the Honorable Harry L. Carrico, former Chief Justice
of the Virginia Supreme Court, join them at the meeting. Chief Justice
Carrico is a member of the John Marshall Foundation and the chairman of
the Marshall Foundation committee to plan the 250th birthday celebration
of Chief Justice John Marshall. Justice Carrico shared his perspective
and experiences with the members as a model for the Lee Commission as
it begins its planning.
The Foundation established
"Justice in the Classroom," a national educational program for
students focused not just on John Marshall, but on the three branches
of government and the role of an independent judiciary. In addition to
this program, the committee focused on two main events: a kick-off weekend
in Richmond and a birthday gala that Supreme Court Justice Kennedy will
attend in September.
Director of the John Marshall Foundation, shared her experiences in planning
the logistics of the 250th birthday celebration. She emphasized that the
right leadership is very important. She also advised that speakers for
key events be arranged well in advance.
Lora M. Robbins Curator of Art at the Virginia Historical Society, spoke
to the Commission about a major exhibition planned to showcase the lives
of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Originally, an exhibit was planned
just to focus on Lee's life; however, the New York Historical Society
was planning a similar exhibit to showcase the life of Ulysses S. Grant.
The two historical societies decided to collaborate and combine the shows,
with the thought that more educational opportunities existed by comparing
the lives of the two important civil war leaders. The advantage of a joint
effort is that the exhibit of Lee's life and history will appear to a
large New York audience and will also travel to Houston and other national
sites. The exhibit is planned to open in the fall of 2007 and a catalog
of the Lee-Grant exhibit items will be available at the opening.
Members of the Commission
shared the organizations' initial plans for their Lee celebration. It
was suggested that an "In the Footsteps of Lee" exhibit, in
conjunction with the park service, be included, which could help stimulate
tourism at locations around the state. Washington and Lee University,
uniquely positioned to tell the story of Lee the educator, has proposed
an academic symposium in early 2007 focusing on Lee history that could
be developed into a major conference featuring national scholars and publishing
opportunities. The office of special programs is planning a Lee Program
for fall 2006, which would include an alumni travel program to include
significant Lee sites, ending with a visit to Lexington. Finally, the
university is developing a show entitled "Revisioning Lee" to
be held in the new art and music building scheduled to open in fall 2006.
Stratford Hall, Lee's
birthplace, is also planning events, which may include a candlelight celebration
on the night of Lee's birthday with other events scheduled during the
The Sons of Confederate
Veterans hope to have a historical conference highlighting "Lee the
Confederate." The Daughters of the Confederacy hope to coordinate
an October 2007 convention in Reston with a memorial service at Arlington
House. In addition, the organization has planned a memorial service at
Washington and Lee on October 12, 2007, and hopes to coordinate efforts
with Stratford Hall. Both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters
of the Confederacy are very interested in the educational components of
the Commission's celebration plans.
A second meeting
of the Commission was held at Washington and Lee University in Lexington
on September 27, 2005. Prior to the meeting, members had an opportunity
to visit the Lee Chapel and the Lee House, both located on the campus,
and meet with Taylor Sanders, Washington and Lee University Historian.
Bruce and Jennifer
Young of the Evans-McCan Group, presented their proposal for a documentary
film on Lee's life made in a "detached observational" style,
which would appear from the viewpoint of the subject, Robert E. Lee himself.
The film would cost approximately $375,000, and the Young's are in the
process of seeking grants and other funding to cover the expense; the
Commission unanimously voted to endorse the project.
WORK PLAN &
The Commission voted
to request the assistance of Dr. James Robertson in the planning of the
Lee celebration activities and events. Dr. Robertson is a renowned civil
war scholar and the director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies
at Virginia Tech.
The remainder of
the meeting was spent brainstorming about possible events, emphasizing
that education would be highlighted and that the celebration should be
tied to the Jamestown 2007 celebration in order to increase tourism in
In order to organize
events and further develop proposals, the Commission formed three planning
subcommittees: special events, education, and tourism and promotion. The
Commission will split off into smaller subcommittees to discuss these
The next meeting,
of the Lee Commission is scheduled for November 30, 2:00 p.m., General
Assembly Building in Richmond.
The Hon. Benjamin
The Hon. Emmett
Frank Munyan, DLS