Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

HJR 710/SJR 382: Joint Subcommittee to Plan and Coordinate the 200th Anniversary Celebration of the Birth of Robert E. Lee

The Joint Subcommittee to Plan and Coordinate the 200th Anniversary Celebration of the Birth of Robert E. Lee (Lee Commission), established by HJR 710 (Cline) and SJR 382 (Hanger) has met two times. Membership includes legislative members, as well as representatives from the Department of Education, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Historic Resources, Washington & Lee University, Stratford Hall, the Museum of the Confederacy, and the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy.

July 26, 2005

At the Commission's first meeting, the members elected Delegate Benjamin L. Cline and Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. as co-chairmen. Senator Hanger said he was excited about the opportunities the Commission would provide for generating tourism in the Commonwealth and possibly producing revenue.


Delegate Cline said that it was fitting that Lee's 200th birthday would take place in 2007, when the state is also planning commemorative events related to the settlement at Jamestown. The Jamestown celebration is focused on celebrating 400 years of history in the Commonwealth, and not just the events that took place in 1607-it will be a celebration of Virginia's rich history past and present. Cline said he considers Lee to be one of Virginia's greatest sons, personifying many of Virginia's traditions. Lee is remembered for his military career, but he was also an educator. He was well known for his devotion to honor and religion, as well as his commitment to rebuilding the solidarity of the Union.


John Marshall Foundation
The Commission was privileged to have the Honorable Harry L. Carrico, former Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, join them at the meeting. Chief Justice Carrico is a member of the John Marshall Foundation and the chairman of the Marshall Foundation committee to plan the 250th birthday celebration of Chief Justice John Marshall. Justice Carrico shared his perspective and experiences with the members as a model for the Lee Commission as it begins its planning.

The Foundation established "Justice in the Classroom," a national educational program for students focused not just on John Marshall, but on the three branches of government and the role of an independent judiciary. In addition to this program, the committee focused on two main events: a kick-off weekend in Richmond and a birthday gala that Supreme Court Justice Kennedy will attend in September.

Lynn Brackenridge, Director of the John Marshall Foundation, shared her experiences in planning the logistics of the 250th birthday celebration. She emphasized that the right leadership is very important. She also advised that speakers for key events be arranged well in advance.

Virginia Historical Society
William Rasmussen, Lora M. Robbins Curator of Art at the Virginia Historical Society, spoke to the Commission about a major exhibition planned to showcase the lives of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Originally, an exhibit was planned just to focus on Lee's life; however, the New York Historical Society was planning a similar exhibit to showcase the life of Ulysses S. Grant. The two historical societies decided to collaborate and combine the shows, with the thought that more educational opportunities existed by comparing the lives of the two important civil war leaders. The advantage of a joint effort is that the exhibit of Lee's life and history will appear to a large New York audience and will also travel to Houston and other national sites. The exhibit is planned to open in the fall of 2007 and a catalog of the Lee-Grant exhibit items will be available at the opening.


Members of the Commission shared the organizations' initial plans for their Lee celebration. It was suggested that an "In the Footsteps of Lee" exhibit, in conjunction with the park service, be included, which could help stimulate tourism at locations around the state. Washington and Lee University, uniquely positioned to tell the story of Lee the educator, has proposed an academic symposium in early 2007 focusing on Lee history that could be developed into a major conference featuring national scholars and publishing opportunities. The office of special programs is planning a Lee Program for fall 2006, which would include an alumni travel program to include significant Lee sites, ending with a visit to Lexington. Finally, the university is developing a show entitled "Revisioning Lee" to be held in the new art and music building scheduled to open in fall 2006.

Stratford Hall, Lee's birthplace, is also planning events, which may include a candlelight celebration on the night of Lee's birthday with other events scheduled during the day.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans hope to have a historical conference highlighting "Lee the Confederate." The Daughters of the Confederacy hope to coordinate an October 2007 convention in Reston with a memorial service at Arlington House. In addition, the organization has planned a memorial service at Washington and Lee on October 12, 2007, and hopes to coordinate efforts with Stratford Hall. Both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy are very interested in the educational components of the Commission's celebration plans.

September 27, 2005

A second meeting of the Commission was held at Washington and Lee University in Lexington on September 27, 2005. Prior to the meeting, members had an opportunity to visit the Lee Chapel and the Lee House, both located on the campus, and meet with Taylor Sanders, Washington and Lee University Historian.


Bruce and Jennifer Young of the Evans-McCan Group, presented their proposal for a documentary film on Lee's life made in a "detached observational" style, which would appear from the viewpoint of the subject, Robert E. Lee himself. The film would cost approximately $375,000, and the Young's are in the process of seeking grants and other funding to cover the expense; the Commission unanimously voted to endorse the project.


The Commission voted to request the assistance of Dr. James Robertson in the planning of the Lee celebration activities and events. Dr. Robertson is a renowned civil war scholar and the director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech.

The remainder of the meeting was spent brainstorming about possible events, emphasizing that education would be highlighted and that the celebration should be tied to the Jamestown 2007 celebration in order to increase tourism in both venues.

In order to organize events and further develop proposals, the Commission formed three planning subcommittees: special events, education, and tourism and promotion. The Commission will split off into smaller subcommittees to discuss these topics.


The next meeting, of the Lee Commission is scheduled for November 30, 2:00 p.m., General Assembly Building in Richmond.

The Hon. Benjamin Cline

The Hon. Emmett Hanger, Jr.

For information, contact:
Frank Munyan, DLS Staff



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