Press Club

County Board Votes to Replace ‘Lee Highway’ Name

Lee Highway is no more in Arlington. It’s now Langston Blvd.

The County Board voted unanimously on Saturday to rename Route 29 within Arlington’s borders, following the recommendation of a Working Group (and county staff) on a new name.

As we previously reported:

County staff have selected “Langston Boulevard” from the finalists submitted by a task force, which was charged with replacing both “Lee” and “Highway.” Currently, Route 29 in the county is named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose name was removed from one of Arlington’s high schools and whose house is being removed from the county logo.

Previously, the task force recommended Loving Avenue as the name, in honor of the interracial couple whose landmark U.S. Supreme Court case inspired the film that bears their name. That was nixed after the couple’s descendants objected.

The new name honors John M. Langston, an abolitionist, attorney and member of Congress whose name is also on an Arlington schoolcommunity center and civic association.

Langston was the first dean of the law school at Howard University, the first president of Virginia State University, and the first U.S. representative of color from Virginia.

The new name “better reflects Arlington County’s values, promotes equity, and is welcoming to all people who work on, live on, and/or visit the corridor,” the county said in a press release, which also touted the nearly year-long public process involved in selecting a new name.

“The Working Group created an objective set of evaluation criteria to ensure that the public process of selecting a name was transparent, inclusive, and reflected a commitment to the values of public engagement in Arlington,” the county said. “With the new name of Langston Boulevard, costs for new signage are estimated at $300,000, subject to final design and determination by VDOT.”

“We’re throwing Lee Highway in the dustbin with Jefferson Davis Highway,” said County Board member Libby Garvey. “It’s a great day.”

There was one notable dissenting voice on the renaming, as noted by County Board watcher Stephen Repetski. Local history activist Bernie Berne, who previously called renaming the corridor “political correctness” and part of “a culture war that’s been going on since the Civil War,” spoke out at the meeting.

Berne asserted that Robert E. Lee was unfairly denigrated during the renaming process, prior to the Board’s unanimous vote.

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