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.
Congratulations to Warren County High School Seniors – Class of 2020
Royal Examiner presents the Warren County High School Class of 2020. Congratulations to these wonderful seniors on their hard work and deserved accomplishments! We wish you the best in your next big endeavors. Photos courtesy of the Victor O’Neill Studios.
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
“The highest result of education is tolerance.”
“The most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and to not give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not.”
“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”
—Senator Orrin Hatch
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.”
“There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.”
“Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.”
“Every person you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”
—H Jackson Brown Jr.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
—Henry David Thoreau
“The most rewarding things in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”
“If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
—Vincent Van Gogh
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
“You have to dance a little bit before you step out into the world each day, because it changes the way you walk.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“I encourage you to live with life. Be courageous, adventurous. Give us a tomorrow, more than we deserve.”
Get busy living or get busy dying.”
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”
—William Arthur Ward
“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.”
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
It’s burned up – forget it: Call dad and tell him his truck is toast in Front Royal
Mid-afternoon, Thursday, June 25, a vehicle fire was reported in the parking lot of the commercial strip anchored by Anthony’s Pizza on the 100 block of South Royal Avenue. First responders from Warren County Fire & Rescue and the Front Royal Police Department found a pickup truck with West Virginia tags parked on the street side of the lot with an engine fire engaged and no occupants apparent.
This reporter arrived after the fire had been extinguished and only one town police unit remained at the scene. That officer pointed out a thick fluid trail that appeared to run from the 1993 Ford Ranger pickup through a portion of the parking lot, perhaps indicating a fluid leak as a source or consequence of the engine fire.
Our inquiry to responding agencies led to information from the FRPD Public Information Department’s Jessica Racer, who told us, “The incident was a vehicle fire, not arson and not suspicious in nature. The owner’s name is Roger Haines in Hampshire County (West Virginia).”
FRPD Captain Crystal Cline later told Royal Examiner that the truck’s owner was contacted by running the tags and requesting Hampshire County authorities to contact him. That route was required because apparently the truck’s driver and a passenger left the scene without ever making contact with local authorities, first responders, or potentially impacted businesses in the commercial strip.
Captain Cline reported that Mr. Haines “advised that the vehicle was not stolen, and he had given his daughter permission to drive the vehicle” and that he was “aware that the vehicle was broken down” and “had already contacted a towing company” about recovering it.
This scenario seems to confirm information from a witness to the vehicle fire who told a Royal Examiner source that the vehicle’s occupants, described as a man and woman, left the scene on foot without contacting responders about their connection to the vehicle. According to the witness, the pair left the truck cab locked as they exited it with the engine smoking before walking to the adjacent Jack Evans Chevrolet lot to watch at distance as responders arrived to extinguish the developing engine fire. Eventually, they left the scene on foot down South Royal Avenue without any apparent contact with authorities, the witness reported.
That’s a long hitchhike back to Hampshire County – no time to waste apparently.
Music park at Burrell Brooks, Jr. Community Park ribbon cutting ceremony
On Friday, June 26, 2020, citizens, friends and family, Parks and Recreation Commission members, Warren County Board of Supervisors members, and County Administrator Doug Stanley gathered to welcome Dr. Lorraine LeHew Hultquist’s generous gift to Burrell Brooks, Jr. Community Park.
This is Dr. Hultquist’s third music park donation to the Warren County park system. In 2017, Ms. Hultquist suggested the idea of adding a music park to one of the County’s facilities after visiting similar parks in Utah and Oregon, and the County celebrated the first music park addition at Rockland Park in November 2017. The following year, a second music park addition was built in Lions Park.
In late 2019, Dr. Lorraine LeHew Hultquist donated the new Deluxe Collection music system to be installed at Burrell Brooks, Jr. Community Park. The mixed quartet offers a musical experience for all through a specially designed ensemble that delivers a variety of sound qualities and pitch ranges. The equipment is multi-generational, interactive, durable, and perfectly tuned. Everyone, regardless of age or ability, can play. Her generous support of the music parks will allow our community to enjoy the enrichment of music and will inspire future musicians.
At the ribbon cutting, long-time Warren County Parks and Recreation Commission member Ron Harvey provided a history of the Commission, recreation in the community, and how the generosity of the community has allowed the parks to flourish.
Board of Supervisors Vice Chair and South River District Supervisor Cheryl Cullers noted the importance of music in the development of children, who will now have the opportunity to enjoy this park and its new addition donated by Dr. Lorraine LeHew Hultquist. She added, “The addition of this music equipment to Burrell Brooks Park will, I believe, give the children of the community at an early age, access to music as an avenue to hopefully start a lifelong love of music, as well as to have the experience to exercise their own creative musical talents.”
The Warren County Parks and Recreation Department is very grateful for Dr. Hultquist’s generous gifts to our local parks for the benefit of all citizens. County Administrator Doug Stanley, noting her previous donations, stated, “I would like to personally thank Lorraine for her kind and generous monetary gift for this magnificent music park for all of Warren County patrons to enjoy and for her support of the entire Parks and Recreation system. It is truly fitting that she is honored today for her gracious and kind gift!”
Three words: The test of liberty or tyranny
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Since 1776 when those words were written in the Declaration of Independence, the world has seen kings and tyrants who, fooling men with their sweet-sounding philosophies, tried to steal their rights and liberty, and many times succeeded.
Yet, in this famous sentence, Thomas Jefferson gives us three words that are the test for tyranny:
The Creator gives rights to men and women as a gift — an endowment — what the dictionary calls a ‘fund for permanent support.’ No man gives these rights to people, for these rights are already theirs. No king can decide which people get to exercise these rights because each person has been given the free gift of these permanent rights, not one more than another.
These obvious rights, given as a permanent gift from God, cannot be taken away by any person, and neither can a man surrender his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Town Talk: A conversation with Tim Ratigan – support our local law enforcement officers
In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Tim Ratigan. Tim has started a movement in our community to support our local law enforcement officers from the Front Royal Police Department and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Our local law enforcement officers serve to defend the freedom, fairness, and individual liberties that our forefathers fought and died. These brave men and women risk their lives every day to maintain a civil society and the rule of law.
On Friday evening, July 3rd, another group of community supporters are meeting at the Gazebo in Front Royal from 5 pm to 7:30 pm. Come show your appreciation, support, and respect for local Law Enforcement, Fire, and Emergency Personnel along with the flag of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA! This is a free informal gathering for those interested in showing their support and to say thanks.
No frills, nothing more than thank you to those men and women who serve our community. You are free to wear a mask, practice distancing, bring “Old Glory” (lots of them), bring a lounge chair, sing the National Anthem, God Bless America, etc, stroll along Main Street, which will be closed to vehicle traffic for outdoor dining and shopping. Come and enjoy yourselves and be thankful for those who simply wish to “Serve and Protect”.
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
Front Royal Unites seeks teamwork with Warren County School Board
Two organizers of Front Royal Unites, a newly formed nonprofit working for the lawful and equal treatment of all races and ethnic groups, on Wednesday, requested that the Warren County School Board work with the organization to address any racial disparities in Warren County Public Schools (WCPS).
A few of the School Board members agreed that the group’s request was reasonable and warranted.
“The reason we have come to you today is that in the past… we’ve had some racial disparities that we’ve experienced within the school system,” said Stevi Hubbard of Front Royal Unites.
Hubbard reminded board members that she previously appeared before the School Board to raise related topics, and told them during their Wednesday, July 1 meeting that the board has not addressed those concerns “in any way shape or form, which is pretty upsetting.”
Since her earlier visits, Hubbard said data has been collected on how students feel like they are being disproportionately punished or not included in certain programming based on color. And she noted that racial slurs have been painted on school buildings.
“We hope we can work with you on these issues this year, and we would like to see those changes made this year,” said Hubbard, adding that she doesn’t want to have her child or other students and staff attending school and seeing racist comments or graffiti on school properties.
“It is our hope that you will take us seriously now,” said Hubbard, pointing out to the School Board that Front Royal Unites now has 2,500 members supporting the group.
Samuel Porter, the spokesman for Front Royal Unites and a 2011 graduate of Skyline High School, said he wanted to ensure that “we’re all very cognizant” about the racial comments that sometimes might be made at school or online.
“There are some bad people. We are just trying to make sure that our students are going to safe environments, and they don’t have to worry based on what they look like on the outside,” Porter told School Board members during the community participation segment of their regular meeting on Wednesday.
Warren County School Board member James Wells, who represents the Happy Creek District, told the Front Royal Unites representatives that he was on board with their request.
“Whatever you need,” Wells told them. “I’ll give you my phone number. I’ll give you my emails. I would be glad to meet with you at any time because your cause is just, and I’d be more than happy to work with you.”
School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., agreed. “As Mr. Wells said, we will work with you guys,” he told Porter and Hubbard.
Formed in May, Front Royal Unites in June quickly organized and held two local peaceful civil rights marches.
Porter and Hubbard also recently spoke during the June 22 Front Royal Town Council meeting, where they applauded Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis and the department for proactively working with the group to support those marches.
“We come to the table very peacefully… to build bridges, not burn them,” Porter told the council members.
To hear the comments given by the Front Royal Unites organizers during the School Board meeting, watch the Royal Examiner video below.