Since 1972, Arlington House — the recognizable Greek revival mansion atop the hill in Arlington National Cemetery — has been officially called “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is now planning to propose legislation that would remove the Confederate general’s name.
Beyer said today, as first reported by the Associated Press, that it’s time to drop Lee from the official name of the house, from which Arlington County gets its name, logo and seal. The general lived in the house, but its history goes beyond his time there, both before — it was built by George Washington’s adopted son around the turn of the 19th century — and after — when it was seized during the Civil War.
“The choice of Lee’s home for the site of a national military cemetery was intended to be a punitive measure against Lee, who himself said after the Civil War that he opposed erecting Confederate monuments,” Beyer said in a statement sent to ARLnow. “Given these considerations and requests from members of the community, including descendants of enslaved people in the area, I am working on legislation to remove the reference to Robert E. Lee from the official name of Arlington House.”
“Part of the reckoning with the history of racism and slavery in America and in our own community has been a reexamination of public symbols,” Beyer continued. “I absolutely support that process, including the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol and taking other actions that make it clear we do not revere Confederate leaders or approve of the cause for which they fought.”
Beyer’s push to remove the name comes as Arlington County is in the midst of a series of proposed renamings, some brought about by the national racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police.
A name change process has been launched for Lee Highway (Route 29), and new names have been proposed for Henry Clay Park and the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington. Previously, Washington-Lee High School was renamed Washington-Liberty and Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) was renamed Richmond Highway.
The Arlington branch of the NAACP, meanwhile, called last month for Arlington’s logo and seal to be redesigned in order to remove Arlington House from each, calling it “divisive and racist” and “a symbol of a slave labor camp.”