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Traffic everywhere – SNP update observes leaf-season visitation influx



Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn reported on the state of the park – and traffic and traffic mitigation plans – at the Nov. 7 board of supervisors meeting. Photo/Roger Bianchini

Front Royal and Warren County residents venturing out of their neighborhoods the weekend of November 2nd through the 4th may have noticed some “slight” traffic congestion on major thoroughfares heading toward and through Front Royal.

The culprit – we didn’t really need to tell you, did we? – was a combination of pleasantly warm, sunny and NOT raining weather, coupled with a rather late peak fall leaf-changing season in Shenandoah National Park (SNP).

The result according to Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn in a November 7 report to the Warren County Board of Supervisors was 6,000 cars entering the valued regional tourist attraction at its northern Front Royal entrance on Saturday and Sunday, November 3rd and 4th alone.  Those 3,000 cars per weekend day traveling through Warren County and Front Royal to access the national park were part of 17,346 vehicles traveling through park entrance stations those two days.

“Are you sure it was only 6,000?” County Board Chair Tony Carter asked Flynn of the two-day local traffic count.

And for those of us who ventured a trip across town that weekend to try and access South Street food or shopping outlets, it seemed a valid question. – Because it appeared there might be a thousand cars backed up on and across the Route 55 East (John Marshall Highway/South Street) and South Commerce Avenue intersection at any given time.  This intrepid driver gave up on Royal Avenue when the backup was at a standstill two-plus blocks from the East Main Street intersection traffic light.

That traffic equated to 8 to 9 cars per minute checking in at the park’s north entrance off Route 340 South during peak hours, Flynn observed.  The first-weekend-of-November traffic jam was impacted by a perfect storm of circumstances, Flynn noted.

As alluded to above, those factors included an exceptionally late leaf-changing season due to myriad factors from an early-fall continuation of an exceptionally rainy spring and summer; and a beautifully warm, dry and sunny fall weekend to accompany the late peak leaf-turning that led to D.C. Metro area broadcasters trumpeting the first weekend of November as “the optimum time” for a visit west out I-66 to see nature in all its fall glory.

Well, you don’t see that every day at home in Northern Virginia and the D.C. Metro area. Courtesy Photo/Shenandoah National Park

Park Director Flynn addressed this year’s weather’s impact on park visitation in her report to the county government:

“This has been a challenging weather year for Shenandoah and our area.  As you know, it has not stopped raining for months.  Our most recent rainfall measurement at Big Meadows was 81-inches through October.  Our prior record rainfall was 76-inches in 2003 for the entire year; and our records at Big Meadows go back over 30 years,” Flynn said.

And while the wet year has meant fire dangers have been low – boy could California use some of our excess rain!!! – the impact on visitation has been negative.

“We are a weather dependent park as it relates to visitation,” Flynn observed, noting a 14% drop in visitors through September compared to 2017 when a total of 1.46-million visitors were counted for the year.  Well, those 17,346 vehicles checking into Shenandoah National Park with mom, dad and the kids hopefully sparked a late-season comeback in those numbers.

… or that – Courtesy Photo/Shenandoah National Park

And we grin and bear the fall leaf season traffic influx annually – even celebrate its coming with the tourist-welcoming Festival of the Leaves – because all that traffic also means some of those family-bearing cars are going to stop to shop, eat or even sleep locally, beefing up local business and municipal revenues.

“As much as these busy weekends challenge the patience of our neighbors, having a national park as a neighbor is a good thing,” Flynn reminded county leaders, adding, “Every year the National Park Service commissions a study of the economic impact that parks have in their surrounding communities:

a/ In 2017, visitors spent $95.8 million in surrounding communities;

b/ Their spending supported 1200 jobs in the local area; including 300 DNC jobs and 300 park jobs (for those of you wondering as did this reporter, Flynn explained to Royal Examiner that in this case DNC stands for park concessionaire Delaware North Corporation, not the Democratic National Committee).

Flynn lauded Front Royal and Warren County’s past working relationship with Shenandoah National Park.  She pointed to both municipal governments’ participation in region-wide municipal opposition to an effort of the Trump administration to hike park fees to a level that would have made park access less affordable to many mid-to-lower income families for whom national parks have long been an affordable and easily accessible regional mini-vacation destination.

“Warren County has long understood the value of this relationship.  Your county was vocal in the opposition to the proposal for a very large fee increase that could have reduced visitation to the park. A fee increase did go through, but it was only a $5 increase.  I appreciate your commitment to helping protect access to Shenandoah National Park,” Flynn told county officials, adding, “Warren County has been a strong partner for the park in many areas: your county has been a strong advocate for park values; you have valued and protected park view sheds; and you have been proactive about developments like large scale solar by addressing these issues in the comprehensive plan.  We appreciate your partnership and your support in protecting what makes our community so special.”

… or THAT either!!! – Courtesy Photo/Shenandoah National Park

And as if to illustrate that appreciation, Flynn told the county supervisors of plans to upgrade the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in a way that might help mitigate the seasonal traffic impact.

“We appreciate the close working relationship the Town of Front Royal, the county and the park have in managing the impacts to the community this traffic brings.  This year we are beginning the planning to build a new entrance station at Front Royal and looking for design solutions for the congestion issues will be part of that project,” she said.

Funny how there’s not one car on the Drive in any of these park photographs – do you think they airbrush them out? Courtesy Photos/Shenandoah National Park

Other projects in the works for the coming year include: complete restoration of the public restrooms at Dickey Ridge; completed connector trail to the Front Royal Greenway; construction of public parking at Old Rag in Madison County in 2019; and release of a park app and 3-D imaging of visitors centers.

And while publication of this story is too late to do you any good on this one, Veterans Day, Sunday, November 11 was a fee-free entrance day for Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park.

Of fee-free days in the coming year, Flynn said, “We do not have the national fee free days for 2019 announced yet, but we do have our park-specific fee free day in June.  The 3rd Saturday is always “park neighbor day” – for 2019 that will be June 15.”

“Write that date down, mom – I wanna get out of town and see what’s going on in the park for FREE the end of next spring!!!”

What IS going on in the park – deer grazing …

Dark Hollow Falls Trail …

And Dreamy Falls, among other wildlife, trails and dreams, so close to home …

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Front Royal unites plans peaceful June 5 equality march



Citizens of Front Royal, Va., plan to come together tomorrow to make their voices heard in a peaceful protest of the institutional injustices against people of color across the United States.
The newly formed Front Royal Unites has organized a Friday, June 5 march beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Bing Crosby Stadium on E. 8th Street in Front Royal.

“It is important to remember to remain peaceful — there have been sustained reports of people showing up to agitate the outcome of this event,” wrote Front Royal Unites organizers in a statement released on Wednesday. “But together and through unity, we will not allow them to disturb our peace and take away the focus from the movement. We will lead by example.”

The Front Royal unites event, like many across the nation and world, was spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., after a white police officer knelt on the black man’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street.

Arrests and charges of four police officers followed. Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd to the ground by his neck, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But on Wednesday prosecutors charged him with a more serious count of second-degree murder.

Earlier today, a judge set bail for the other three former Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s death at $1 million each, or $750,000 under certain conditions, including that they do not work in law enforcement or have any contact with Floyd’s family. The officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao have been charged with second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

While the arrests and charges have been referred to as a good first step in bringing justice to Floyd and his family members, protests have been held throughout the U.S. and across the globe by people calling for larger changes that would end systemic racism, police brutality and other issues of inequality, such as those related to housing, education, employment, and healthcare for blacks and other people of color.

The mission of Front Royal unites is to eradicate white supremacy, according to the group’s statement.

“We believe silence is complicit and injustices against minority groups must stop!” according to the group’s mission statement. “From the courthouse to the schoolhouse, bridges must be built and not burnt down. We want to ensure that regardless of your complexion, you are not feared, you feel safe, and you get equal footing. Together we are united. Together we are Front Royal.”
Front Royal resident Justin Thorne, an organizer of Front Royal Unites, said during a Facebook video that the group seeks “multiple changes for black lives,” especially in small towns.

Front Royal Unites organizer Justin Thorne of Front Royal spoke to group members in an online Facebook video earlier this week reiterating the need for a peaceful march.

“We are going to be the better people and try to make a change for the better,” Thorne said in his video. “We are protesting for black lives, for justice, and for unity. We need to educate people. We need to change this system.”

Earlier this week, Front Royal unites met with officials from the Town of Front Royal, the Front Royal Police Department, and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department to develop an agreeable plan for the march, including the route.

Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis told the Royal Examiner that “meetings with Front Royal Unites worked out fantastically.”

In addition, a few of the police department’s officers, along with members of the local sheriff’s department, “will be taking part in the march” and walking alongside the participants, Magalis said.

“We are fortunate for those individual citizens within our community who have helped, are helping, and will continue to help to see this event through,” said Front Royal resident Samuel Leon Porter, a Virginia advisor and head of communications for Front Royal unites.

The rain-or-shine event begins at 6:30 p.m. and will start and end at Bing Crosby Stadium, wrapping up around 8:30 p.m. A rally, several speeches, and a cookout will take place at the stadium following the march. The event is free to the public.

Among the scheduled speakers at the stadium following the march is Front Royal Councilwoman Letasha Thompson, a life-long Front Royal resident.

“Everyone has the right to protest,” Thompson posted June 3 on the Front Royal Unites site. “The key here is to remain PEACEFUL even if someone tries to provoke you. I’m looking forward to a peaceful and UNIFYING event where we all stand UNITED.”

Other speakers include Porter, a retired member of the U.S. Navy; local community leaders Kenny Sonnie and Gene Kilby; and Kori Morris, the volunteer coordinator for Front Royal Unites. The master of ceremonies is Stevi Hubbard, who is head of community relations for Front Royal unites.

Porter said that for residents concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, they may still participate by parking their vehicles at the stadium where they will be able to hear participating speakers being broadcast over the stadium loudspeakers.

And while members of Front Royal Unites have received some negative comments, Thorne urged participants not to have that same mindset and to instead remain positive, peaceful and focused.

“Prepare yourself mentally to hold it all in,” Thorne said on his video. “It’s very important. This is a peaceful protest and it needs to stay peaceful so that we can get our point across.”

Front Royal Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick said he thinks the march and rally will be successful. “I have every hope this will be a peaceful event,” Tederick told the Royal Examiner this evening.

The Front Royal Unites march will begin and end at Bing Crosby Stadium.

Watch this exclusive Royal Examiner video with Front Royal unites organizers:

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Royal Cinemas reopens



Rick Novak of Royal Cinemas and Royal Family Bowling Center announces that the Royal Cinemas has reopened. Rick had the staff in on Thursday, June 4th to get the projections up and running – so what you would call a “soft open’, but really gets underway on Friday, June 5th. Check out the showtimes and movies here.

Mike McCool our publisher stopped by the theater Thursday afternoon and spoke with Rick about the reopening of Royal Cinemas and Royal Family Bowling Center.

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Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP serves over 7,000 residents per year–can YOU help? 



WHAT MATTERS Warren–The Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP is a 100% volunteer-run organization that has been serving our community for 41 years in remarkable ways. Their service statistics are mind-blowing. The organization is seeking volunteers, support and necessary tools to expand their outreach which peaked at serving more than 3,000 heads of households in 2018. In this video interview, President Larry Elliott, VP/Office Manager Janet Harshman, and Clothing Manager Mary Grimsley go behind the scenes at C-CAP and describe the services they are currently providing to over 7,000 residents (including 1,500 children).

C-CAP hands out more than 200,000 pounds of food each year, not including the amount they donate to other charities like House of Hope, Loaves & Fishes, and the Senior Center. In addition to hunger relief, the group provides those in need with over 15,000 items of clothing per year. Approximately 80-90% of their clients request clothing during their visits to pick up their food supplies since there is no cost. Limited financial assistance with utilities and prescription medications is also provided to those they serve as funds are available.

How you can help them help our community:

  1.  Donate seasonal clothing (they don’t have space to store other than summer)–they especially need men’s tees and underwear, girl’s and boy’s underwear and socks for all ages.
  2. Drop off laundry detergent, home cleaning products, and toiletry supplies (even hotel soaps are useful). Food stamps can’t be used to buy such essential items, and they are in high demand.
  3. Provide financial support in the form of donations or gift cards (Aldi cards are ideal for purchasing affordable produce). You can designate your donations to be directed to any area of their service or to their building fund.
  4. Volunteer your time and expertise to help the organization in any way and for any amount of time you are able to assist the worthy cause.
  5. The organization is also in search of a more handicap accessible in-town location with more square footage than their current space. Ideally, the building would offer client drive-through capabilities.

The County of Warren generously allowed them to temporarily move to the Health and Human Services complex on 15th Street during the COVID-19 quarantine but as of June 8th, they’ll be serving completely from their home in the basement of the building that houses St. Luke’s Community Clinic at 316 North Royal Avenue. President Elliott has been serving as the community food advisor during the crisis and his team has been hard at work to safely meet the needs of the hungry throughout these trying months, despite the fact that most all of C-CAP’s volunteers are demographically in the “at-risk” population.

According to a study in 2018 (using IRS guidelines), C-CAP was responsible for infusing over $400,000 worth of goods and services to Front Royal/Warren County citizens (not including the value of volunteer hours). The group currently has a volunteer base of around 35 citizens, and some have been serving for more than 20 years. Please find it in your heart to make room in your calendars and wallets to support this amazing organization full of unsung heroes who make a dramatic impact in the lives of those in need.

To learn more, visit their Facebook page or website.

Feel free to email or call 540-636-2448.


Are you or your group in need of a free video that could be created to help market your cause or event? Beth’s WHAT MATTERS Warren videos post on Facebook and YouTube.

Learn more Beth’s nonprofit, WHAT MATTERS, a 501 (c) (3), at – check out the “Community” section to request a TOWN TIP or WHAT MATTERS WARREN BETHvid or contact her at 540-671-6145 or


WHAT MATTERS is a 501(c)(3) that focuses on local and global outreach to help spread the word, support and raise funds for causes that matter (primarily through Facebook). WHAT MATTERS has ZERO overhead as 100% of the expenses are funded by Beth’s real estate business thanks to her clients and supporters. Every cent raised goes to the cause she’s promoting and most are matched by Beth. If you’d like to get involved or travel to Africa with her on a future trip to work with the children of Light up Life Foundations, please visit

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Warren County Public Schools to submit pandemic-relief grant application



Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) on Wednesday received approval to submit a $786,820 grant application to the Virginia Department of Education for emergency pandemic relief funds.
The Warren County School Board unanimously approved the district’s grant application, which must be submitted to the state by August 1. WCPS seeks a portion of federal funding allotted to states under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, which is authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

RoyalExaminer file photo. WCSB: Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard; South River District School Board Member Kristen Pence; Happy Creek District School Board Member James Wells; Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., representing North River District; Vice Chairman Catherine Bower, representing Fork District; Shenandoah District School Board Member Ralph Rinaldi; and Robert Ballentine, School Board clerk and WCPS director of finance.

“Funds to local districts can be used for coronavirus-response activities, such as planning for and coordinating during long-term school closures and purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all students,” said WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille during the School Board’s regular meeting held June 3.

Rudacille gave School Board members a breakdown of how the total amount of grant funds would be used.

First, the largest cut of the funds ($366,941) would be used to buy supplies to accompany the contracted Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training and contracted services. This portion also would be used to buy Chromebooks and licenses for elementary students and materials and snacks for the after-school and summer programs.

Regarding the purchase of new and/or replacement technology, Rudacille said WCPS was “able to provide grades 6-12 with devices to take home [during the pandemic] and many of the elementary students also used some at home. We anticipate that many of them won’t be returned in tip-top shape,” she said.

A total of $273,068 would fund the salaries and benefits for teachers and paraprofessionals who would provide extended learning after school and during the summer this year and in 2021, while another $111,810 would be used for the contracted SEL services, which would support teachers and students as they return to school.

These services would include professional development for teachers on best practices in K-12 online learning, among others, as well as professional development for all staff on sanitation practices.

A portion also would be used for Power School Enrollment to allow parents to register kindergarten and new students online, and for the i-Ready math assessment in grades 6-8 to determine student learning gaps.

“We’re not going to know exactly what students will need when they return,” Rudacille said. “Kindergarten through 5 has assessments that we’ll continue to use, and we have Performance Matters, another system we will use to identify students’ needs.”

Grant funds of $35,000 would cover transportation for after-school and summer programs.

The motion to accept the grant application’s submission to the state education department was made by School Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, with a second by School Board Member James Wells. The motion carried with yeas from Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., and board members Bower, Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Kristen Pence.

In other action on Wednesday night, the Warren County School Board unanimously approved a 12-month Custodial Service Management Agreement with Sodexo Operation LLC totaling more than $2.05 million for fiscal year (FY) 2020-2021.

File photo: WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard

WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told the School Board that eight proposals were received on May 13 in response to the custodial services company bid. The district’s Custodial Service Management Company (CSMC) selection committee — which is comprised of two School Board members, two principals, the WCPS director of facilities, and the interim superintendent — then selected two companies to present their proposal based on qualifications, the experience of the firm, project plan, client references, and pricing. The CSMC selection committee then chose Sodexo.

The negotiated agreement would be paid in 12 monthly installments and Sodexo will employ the current custodians, paying them their current wages. Sodexo also agreed to provide health insurance and a retirement plan for the employees, said Sheppard.

The Warren County School Board also unanimously approved a $48,269.74 contract award to OpenRDA for support of the WCPS finance software system for FY 2020-2021.

WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine told the School Board members that the school system has used financial accounting software from RDA (now known as OpenRDA) since the early 1990s. While RDA is considered an open-source software provider—which means they provide the software at no cost—it is necessary for users to contract with them to provide updates, support, and training on the system said Ballentine, who noted: “there is rarely a week when we do not have to contact them and usually it is multiple times.”

While a 4 percent renewal price increase was originally proposed, OpenRDA agreed to a zero-percent increase for next year’s pricing, Ballentine said.

The School Board also unanimously voted to accept with gratitude a $1,344 donation to WCPS from Martin’s to help sustain the food service program and continue to provide school meals for the children of Warren County.

The School Board meets again on June 17 for a regular meeting and work session. To view last night’s meeting in its entirety, watch the video below courtesy of WCSB. There are some audio issues in the first part of the video. The Royal Examiner attempted to enhance the audio as technology would allow.

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Governor Northam to remove Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond



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.

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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.”[3] 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.[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.[5][6]

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.[citation needed] 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.[5]

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.[7] 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.[1] It is located in the Monument Avenue Historic District.

Visit the website here to find out more about the Monument Avenue Historic District in Richmond.

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Local arrest made after purchasing pickup truck with fake check



On June 1, 2020, David S. Twigg Jr. was arrested for using several forged and one fake check to purchase a 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Pickup Truck from a local Auto Dealer. Information obtained as part of this investigation has implicated Twigg in similar scams in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other parts of Virginia. A record check of Twigg returned an active arrest warrant out of Norfolk Virginia for a larceny charge.

If you have information on this individual, please contact Investigator Jeremy Seabright at 540-635-4128.

Photo courtesy of Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

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