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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Commission for Historical Statues in U.S. Capitol Solicits Nominations for New Honoree to Replace R. E. Lee Statue

National Statuary Hall
National Statuary Hall. (c) Architect of the Capitol.

—On behalf of the commission, DHR will collaborate with the Va. Dept. of Education to solicit names from Virginia teachers and students from elementary through college level—

—Comment period open until November 27—

The Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol is asking the public to submit suggestions for a historical person to represent Virginia in a new statue for placement in the Capitol. The commission is particularly interested in hearing proposals from Virginia students. The deadline for submitting a name for the statue is November 27.

The new statue will eventually complement one of George Washington and take the place of a statue of Robert E. Lee that the commission recommended removing during a public hearing in August. The commission made its decision to solicit the public for proposed honorees for a new statue during its most recent public meeting on October 8.

Suggestions for a historical figure to represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where each state is entitled to two statues, must conform to criteria established by the office of the Architect of the U.S. Capitol. That criteria requires that the person honored—

  • be deceased,
  • be illustrious for historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service, and
  • represent only one individual.

While the criteria also requires that the person must have been a U.S. citizen, it does make exceptions for an indigenous person who resided in the present-day U.S., such as Pocahontas, one name already submitted to the commission.

To those criteria, the commission has added additional values and attributes. The historical person must be—

  • associated with significant events that changed the course of history
  • or associated with significant ideals, writings or concepts
  • or renowned for exemplary valor, patriotism, and bravery.

The person also must be one whose primary historical significance ties her or him directly to Virginia — or who spent the majority of his or her life residing in the commonwealth. And the historical figure should represent current prevailing values, according the commission’s criteria.

Prior to formally announcing on October 15 its request for proposed figures, the commission already received 45 names. These include, in addition to Pocahontas—

  • George C. Marshall, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute who is credited as U.S. Secretary of State with creating the “Marshall Plan” that rebuilt Europe after World War II;
  • Robert Russa Moton, an Amelia County native and nationally esteemed African American educator who served as an administrator at Hampton Institute (today’s Hampton University), and principal at the Tuskegee Institute beginning in 1915; and
  • Booker T. Washington, a native of Franklin County, who founded the Tuskegee Institute and advocated during segregation for improved opportunities for Blacks in education and business.

On behalf of the commission, the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) is collecting suggestions submitted by the public for the new statue. DHR also is collaborating with the Virginia Department of Education to get the word out to teachers and students at all levels, from elementary grades to college, requesting that they suggest names as well.

Students and others should submit their proposed names by email to USCapitolCommission@dhr.virginia.gov or by mail to the US Capitol Commission, Department of Historic Resources, 2801 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221.

The next meeting of the commission convenes on November 17, at 9 a.m. and will be conducted remotely due to necessary health precautions resulting from the covid-19 pandemic. Names for the new statue submitted prior to that public meeting will be included on a list DHR compiles and presents to the commission. The commission will continue to accept submissions until close of day on November 27.

After the November 27 deadline, the commission will research persons suggested for the statue to determine the values and attributes each historic figure represents. The commission will narrow the proposed candidates for the statue to a list of five. At a public hearing in December, the commission will select from the list of five a final name for the new statue to recommend to the General Assembly.

More information about the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol — including archived presentations from its meetings, public comments received, and other documents — can be accessed on the DHR website (www.dhr.virginia.gov) or directly at the following webpage link: www.dhr.virginia.gov/uscapitolcommission.

About the Commission:

The Virginia General Assembly created the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol and tasked it with studying removal and replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue in the Capitol. In August, the commission recommended removing the Lee statue, and subsequently turned its attention to the process of identifying a historical figure for a new statue. Following the commission’s recommendation, Governor Ralph Northam formally requested removal of the Lee statue from the Capitol, and earlier this month the Architect of the U.S. Capitol approved the Governor’s request.

The Capitol commission consists of eight members. Gov. Northam appointed Dr. Edward Ayres and Dr. Colita Fairfax to the commission. The Virginia Senate appointed Sen. Louise Lucas, and the House of Delegates selected Del. Jeion Ward as its representative.

During the commission’s first meeting in July, the four appointed members elected three citizen members: Dr. Fred Motley of Danville, Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe and a resident of Indian Neck, and Margaret “Margi” Vanderhye of McLean. Julie Langan, Director of the Department of Historic Resources, serves as an ex-officio member.

The Department of Historic Resources, the Commonwealth’s historic preservation agency, provides administrative support to the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol. Please direct questions to DHR concerning the commission, its purpose, and the upcoming meeting.

Updated October 15, 2020