Governor Ralph Northam today, June 4, 2020, announced plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee located on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The briefing today started with comments from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, beginning with the words, “It’s time.”
The Governor directed the Department of General Services to safely remove the statue from its pedestal and house it in storage until an appropriate location is determined.
Speakers joining the Governor at today’s announcement include City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Reverend Robert W. Lee IV, Robert Johns, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Zyahna Bryant.
Governor Northam is acting under his executive authority and Section § 2.2-2402 of the Code of Virginia, which provides the Governor the sole authority to approve the removal of a work of art owned by the Commonwealth upon submission of a plan to do so. The Robert E. Lee monument was erected for and is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is considered a work of art pursuant to Section 2.2-2401 of the Code of Virginia.
The Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Good morning, everyone.
I want to thank everyone watching from around Virginia and around the country, and I want to thank the many guests who have joined us as we chart a new course in Virginia’s history.
Today, we’re here to be honest about our past and talk about our future.
I’m no historian, but I strongly believe that we have to confront where we’ve been, in order to shape where we’re going.
And in Virginia, for more than 400 years, we have set high ideals about freedom and equality, but we have fallen short of them.
Some of America’s most hopeful and forward-looking moments happened in this Commonwealth and in this capital city. When Americans first dreamed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—they dreamed here in the Commonwealth.
Virginia adopted a Declaration of Rights before the United States declared independence. It said that all are “equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights.” It specifically called out freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
And in a church on a hill 15 blocks from here, Virginia’s first elected Governor helped launch the American Revolution when he cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” That was Patrick Henry, and I now have the job that he once held—72 governors later.
These are our greatest legacies as Americans. But there’s a whole lot more to the story, because those inspiring words and high ideals did not apply to everyone, not then and not now.
Because at the bottom of that same hill, one of the country’s largest slave-trading markets was coming to life. A place where Virginians would sell men, women, and children for profit. Americans buying and selling other Americans.
This is just as much the American story, and it’s one that we are only just now beginning to tell more fully.
Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through the Civil War, through Jim Crow, and Massive Resistance, and mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms.
The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents like we saw in Minneapolis a few days ago—and I want to acknowledge that our country will honor the life of George Floyd in a memorial service in about three hours.
The legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. But hearts are in different places, and not everyone can see it—or they don’t want to see it.
When I used to teach ambitious young doctors, I would tell them, “The eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know.” That’s true for all of us.
So, it’s time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you can’t see it. Public policies have kept this reality in place for a long time. That’s why we’ve been working so hard to reform criminal justice laws, expand health care access, make it easier to vote, and so much more.
But symbols matter too, and Virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols. Until now.
Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state. That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, but to honor the cause of division. You’ll see this if you look around Virginia and our capital city.
The statue of Robert E. Lee is the most prominent. Lee himself didn’t want a monument, but Virginia built one any way. Lee once said, “I think it is wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” Those are wise words indeed.
So, what happened? Virginia leaders said, we know better.
Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the American civil war, they chose to keep them on display. They launched a new campaign to undo the results of the Civil War by other means.
They needed a symbol to shore up the cause. And it’s quite a symbol. The Lee statue was built in France, and when it arrived by boat on the James River docks, it took 10,000 citizens—and a whole lot of rope to haul three large crates out into the tobacco field where it would be installed. Some business people put it out in the field, so they could eventually build a housing development around it, and make money. It worked.
This happened in May 1890, twenty years after Lee died and a generation after the Civil War ended. 150,000 people came out when the statue was unveiled. But from the beginning, there was no secret about what the statue meant. Almost every one of those 150,000 people waved Confederate flags that day.
John Mitchell was the editor of the Black newspaper, the Richmond Planet, at the time. He wrote, “The emblem of the union had been left behind—a glorification of the lost cause was everywhere.” It was a big day, and more big days followed throughout the old south. And as the statues went up, so did lots of new laws. It was all part of the same campaign.
Here’s just one example: New laws limited the right to vote. In the years after the Civil War, more than 100,000 African American men were registered to vote in Virginia. But once this campaign took off, that number plummeted by 90 percent, to barely 10,000.
That worked too. Because the people who wrote these laws knew what they were doing. They wrote other new laws to say that once a statue goes up, it can never come down. They wanted the statues to remain forever—they needed the statues to stay forever, because they helped keep the system in place. That also worked. Those laws ruled for more than a century.
But voting matters, and elections matter, and laws can be changed. And this year, we changed them. This year, I proposed legislation to let cities and counties decide what to do with monuments in their communities—take them down, move them somewhere else, or add additional context.
That law takes effect in four weeks, and then local communities will decide. I know Richmond is going to do the right thing.
But the Lee statue is unique. It’s different from every other statue in Virginia—both in size and in legal status.
You see, the state owns it, unlike most other statues. That was another part of the plan to keep it up forever. It sits on a 100-foot circle of land, a state-owned island, surrounded by the City of Richmond.
The whole thing is six stories tall. It towers over homes, businesses, and everyone who lives in Richmond—from elegant Monument Avenue to the public housing neighborhood of Gilpin Court. The statue itself weighs 12 tons, and it sits atop a large pedestal. A pedestal is a place of honor. We put things on pedestals when we want people to look up.
Think about the message this sends to people coming from around the world to visit the capital city of one of the largest states in the country. Or to young children. What do you say when a six-year-old African American little girl looks you in the eye, and says: What does this big statue mean? Why is it here?
When a young child looks up and sees something that big and prominent, she knows that it’s important. And when it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value the most. But that’s just not true anymore.
In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history. One that pretends the Civil War was about “state rights” and not the evils of slavery. No one believes that any longer.
And in 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people. In 2020!
I want us all to tell the little girl the truth. Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now.
So, we’re taking it down.
Now, I know some will protest. Some will say, Lee was an honorable man. I know many people will be angry.
But my friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe that when we learn more, we can do more. And I believe that when we learn more—when we take that honest look at our past—we must do more than just talk about the future.
We must take action. So, I am directing the Department of General Services to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee as soon as possible. It will go into storage, and we will work with the community to determine its future.
Before we turn to the next speakers, I want to acknowledge all the elected officials, scholars, members of our advisory boards, and other guests who here.
In particular, I want to acknowledge members of the family of Barbara Johns: Mr. Robert Johns and his grandson Mr. Tyrone Mayer, Jr. You all know their family’s story.
In 1951, a 16-year-old girl, Barbara Johns, stood up and led a protest—a student strike against substandard conditions at Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County. She pushed and pushed, and two great American attorneys took up her cause. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson filed suit, next door, in the federal courthouse at the bottom of the hill. That case became Brown v. Board of Education, and it eventually threw out segregated schools in the United States of America.
That is how you make change—you push on the outside, and you push on the inside too.
We’ll hear in just a moment from a few of the people who are making change happen.
My friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from the past. And we all know our country needs that example right now.
America is once again looking to Virginia to lead. But make no mistake—removing a symbol is important, but it’s only a step.
It doesn’t mean problems are solved. We still need change in this country. We need healing most of all. But symbols do matter.
My friends, we all know it’s time. And history will prove that.
Now, I would like to introduce the Reverend Robert W. Lee IV. We’ve been talking about his great-great-grandfather.
The Robert E. Lee Monument was the first and is the largest of Monument Avenue’s monuments in Richmond, Virginia. In 1876 the Lee Monument Association commissioned a lithograph of a painting by Adalbert Volck. The lithograph, depicting Robert E. Lee on his horse, was the basis for the bronze statue created by French sculptor Antonin Mercié. It was noted in the National Register of Historic Places that “the horse is not a representation of Lee’s famous mount Traveller. The sculptor did not find the size of the actual horse to be in keeping with the overall composition and therefore created an ideal mount with the necessary requirements.” The cornerstone was placed on October 27, 1887. The statue was cast in several pieces separately and then the assembled statue was displayed in Paris before it was shipped to Richmond, where it arrived by rail on May 4. Newspaper accounts indicate that 10,000 people helped pull four wagons with the pieces of the monument. The completed statue was unveiled on May 29, 1890. The statue serves as a traffic circle at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Allen Avenue (named after Otway Allen, the developer who donated the land to the association). Lee stands 14 feet (4.3 m) high atop his horse and the entire statue is 60 feet (18 m) tall standing on a stone base.
The site for the statue originally was offered in 1886. Over some opposition, the offer was accepted and later withdrawn when opponents complained that the $20,000 for the Lee Monument was inappropriate because the site was outside the city limit. Richmond City annexed the land in 1892, but bad times economically caused the Lee Monument to stand alone for several years in the middle of a tobacco field before development resumed in the early 1900s.
The Lee Monument is a focal point for Richmond. (Most popular online maps depict the “Lee Circle” as the center of Richmond, although the United States Post Office uses the intersection of North and South Foushee Street where it intersects with East and West Main St as 0 axis Point of all address in the Richmond region, hence the true address center of Richmond. The Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia State Police use the state Capitol building as its center.) In 1992, the iron fence around the monument was removed, in part because drivers unfamiliar with traffic circles would run into the fence from time to time and force costly repairs. When the fences came down, the stone base became a popular sunbathing spot. In December 2006, the state completed an extensive cleaning and repair of the monument.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. It is located in the Monument Avenue Historic District.
Grand re-opening & ribbon cutting at Code Ninjas
Code Ninjas at 133 N. Royal Avenue in Front Royal held its grand opening on July 31, 2021. Nike Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce along with Board of Supervisors Chairman Cheryl Cullers and Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell welcomed Kimmee Hancock LaCross and husband Chris to the Front Royal business community.
Code Ninjas is where kids learn to code while building their own video games. This is where they learn problem-solving, critical thinking, and STEM skills in a fun, safe, and inspiring environment.
Coding has been called the literacy of the 21st century for good reason. Just like math, science, and literature, coding is a key aspect of understanding our technologically advanced world. There’s a huge need for a generation that not only understands technology but how it works. Regardless of whether your kids one day pursue a career in coding, Code Ninjas teaches them confidence, logic, resourcefulness, and problem-solving skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Front Royal children ages 7-14 can look forward to visiting the new Code Ninjas center to learn how to code in a fun, safe, and social learning environment where gaming is celebrated, and STEM is cool. Everything about Code Ninjas is built around fun, which keeps kids coming back. But the center also provides the results that parents are looking for, as their children gain coding and problem-solving skills they’ll need for the jobs of the future.
Code Ninjas accomplishes this with a robust, game-based curriculum made up of nine belts, just like martial arts. The curriculum is self-paced, but not self-taught; kids get immediate help and encouragement from Code Senseis and fellow students as they advance from white to black belt. The program keeps kids motivated with little wins along the way, and “Belt-Up” celebrations where they receive color-coded wristbands to mark their graduation to the next level. By the time a child finishes the program, they will publish an app in an app store.
Code Ninjas offers a variety of opportunities for children to get involved, including a flexible drop-in program, camps, and Parents Night Out events on weekends.
For more information about the Front Royal Code Ninjas, please visit https://www.codeninjas.com/va-front-royal.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 2 – 6, 2021
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in the Staunton transportation district during the coming weeks. The Staunton District consists of 11 counties from the Alleghany Highlands to the northern Shenandoah Valley: Alleghany, Bath, Rockbridge, Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Warren.
Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for paving operations, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. through September 3.
No lane closures were reported.
No lane closures were reported.
Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) – Road closed between Front Royal eastern town limits and Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road) for a safety improvement project. Follow posted detour. Estimated project completion December 10.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Warren County Republicans hold forum for upcoming School Board seats
On July 29, 2021, the Warren County Republican Committee (WCRC) held a candidate forum for the upcoming Warren County School Boards seats in the Happy Creek, North River, and Fork Districts.
The candidates vying for an endorsement from the Warren County Republican Committee are Antoinette Funk and Stephanie Short (Happy Creek), Melanie Salins (North River), Andrea Lo, and Al Gunn (Fork). Andrea Lo was not in attendance at the forum.
As event moderator and former Committee Chairman Steve Kurtz noted that the committee can only endorse, not nominate. That has essentially been legally interpreted to mean that a candidate cannot carry a political party designation by their name on an election ballot. That does not prevent them from carrying one on sample ballots handed out by political committees outside polling places to reflect a Party’s endorsement.
The Royal Examiner will be having each candidate on an upcoming “Meet the Candidate” Town Talk in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
After the forum, the WCRC voted and choose to endorse Antoinette Funk, Happy Creek District, Melanie Salins, North River District, and Al Gunn, Fork District. Al Gunn is the only candidate that is a write-in candidate. The others names are on the ballot in the upcoming November election.
Dynamics of second Brinklow murder plea deal explained
A second plea deal has been reached in the Tristen Brinklow murder case. On Friday, July 23, in Warren County Circuit Court Richard Matthew Crouch, 38, pled guilty to Second Degree Murder, among other related and unrelated charges, in the September 2019 death of the 20-year-old Brinklow. From the evidence gathered, including from co-suspect George Lee Good, now 29, and another jail inmate to whom Crouch talked extensively, some of those conversations of which were recorded, about the circumstance of Brinklow’s death, Crouch alone is believed by the prosecutor’s office to have been Brinklow’s murderer.
Good’s plea arrangement, which will be before the court on the 9 a.m. morning docket, August 13, indicates a possible total of 35 years, with all but 10 years suspended. Good’s recommended active incarceration of 10 years involves 5 years for his involvement in concealing Brinklow’s body; and one year each to serve on 5-year sentences for guilty pleas to obstruction of justice, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; distribution of methamphetamine; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; and malicious wounding, the latter related to another incident.
The plea agreement for Crouch indicates a possible total of 60 years incarceration, with 20 years recommended suspended, leaving 40 years facing the 38-year-old. Bell added that if the Crouch plea agreement is accepted by the court, with sentencing guidelines applied, it was likely Crouch would serve 29 to 31 years of the recommended 40. With no parole currently in Virginia, Bell noted the defendant would be in his late 60s at the time of his projected release.
In charges related to Brinklow’s death, Crouch pled guilty to second-degree murder (30 years incarceration recommended), concealing a dead body (5 years), and defiling a dead body (5 years). He also pled guilty to several charges he was already incarcerated on prior to being charged in the Brinklow murder. Those were unlawful wounding and two counts of strangulation related to a domestic case with an ex-girlfriend that occurred on September 24, 2019, two days prior to Brinklow’s murder, established to have occurred on September 26, 2019; and one charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Five-year sentences on all those charges were recommended suspended.
In an extended phone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell explained the dynamics and reasoning for the Crouch plea agreement. Among those was a condition indicating Crouch “has accepted responsibility for the crimes for which he is pleading guilty” and another noting that if the plea is accepted by the court, “the Defendant has no grounds to appeal …” his conviction.
Bell said that with a coming legislative change authorizing Circuit Court level appeals “by right”, a change expected to greatly increase the number of appeals in the future, assuring no appeal upon an agreed-upon conviction seemed a good course to take. In fact, Bell indicated that the State was planning the appointment of seven additional appeals court judges to deal with the anticipated increase in appeals of circuit court convictions.
Bell also noted that while Crouch, and Good for that matter, were charged with First Degree Murder in the case, subsequent evidence indicated a lack of a normal prerequisite, premeditation. The first-degree aspect was hung on an allegation that Brinklow was restrained from leaving the hotel room where the three were gathered when the murder occurred, resulting technically in an “abduction” aspect, which can qualify as a First Degree Murder.
Bell elaborated that prosecution evidence indicated that Crouch had become a daily methamphetamine user, leading to the two violent incidents of September 24 and 26, the latter Brinklow’s murder. The first, two days earlier, was an assault involving the strangulation of an ex-girlfriend, Inez Driss. Evidence, including a broken “hyoid” bone in Brinklow’s throat, is consistent with strangulation, Bell said.
The commonwealth attorney said that while on the run from arrest in the assault on his ex-girlfriend, which involved Crouch’s mother as a driver in transporting Crouch’s ex, he, Good, and Brinklow gathered at the motel room where methamphetamine was used. Crouch’s already aggravated and drug-fueled paranoid state apparently worsened, leading him, in addition to concerns about his mother’s whereabouts, to think Brinklow was wearing or had stolen some of his clothes. This led to the physical assault resulting in the 20-year-old Brinklow’s death on September 26, 2019.
His body was later put in a refrigerator by Crouch, with Good’s assistance, and the body was moved by a friend’s pickup truck to a remote location where it was discovered still in the refrigerator by two teens in a severely decomposed state on December 2nd at Digs Landing in the Rivermont area of Warren County. However, the body was not publicly identified until December 16th following state forensic work, and a DNA match to Brinklow, previously only known as missing, was made.
Crouch and Good were charged for murder in the case on December 31, 2019. Both men were incarcerated without bond on unrelated violent crimes at the time the Warren County Sheriff’s Office brought the charges in the Brinklow case against them. Crouch was then housed at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail and Good at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (NRADC) in Frederick County.
Good was arrested in Frederick County at a DUI checkpoint on December 7 (2019). At the time, he was wanted in connection with a non-fatal November 27 shooting on the 200 block of Cloud Street in a residential area adjacent to Front Royal’s Downtown Business District.
And so this chapter of the Front Royal and Warren County illegal drug culture is playing out in the courts in the wake of violence and murder on the streets.
Regional warning of possible severe weather this afternoon and evening
Thursday afternoon, July 29, shortly before 1 p.m., Warren County Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Farrall issued a severe weather alert for the region, including but not specific to Warren County. Below is the 12:57 p.m. alert in its entirety:
“There is a possibility of severe thunderstorms this afternoon, please see below:
“As of 8:22 AM EDT, Thursday, July 29, 2021, this Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of eastern West Virginia, northern and central Virginia, and central and western Maryland:
DAY ONE, Today and Tonight: Scattered severe thunderstorms with damaging wind gusts, large hail, and isolated tornadoes are possible this afternoon and this evening. Additionally, isolated occurrences of flash flooding are also possible.
DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN, Friday through Wednesday: No hazardous weather is expected at this time.
Governor Northam announced that there will be no mask mandate; mask recommended but not required
On July 29, 2021, Governor Northam announced that there will be no mask mandate. Northam did say that wearing masks in public indoor settings with a higher risk of coronavirus transmission “is not a requirement, but a recommendation.”
The Governor’s Twitter account also sent out the following:
The Governor said that more information would be released soon.