City Council to remove Robert E. Lee statue

The City of Dallas is free to move ahead with the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  A federal judge removed a restraining order Thursday allowing the process to proceed.

The Dallas City Council voted 13-1 to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Park on Sept 6. The vote came in response to Mayor Mike Rawlings, who announced the creation of a task force after violence broke out in Charlottesville over a Confederate monument. The task force would work to determine what should happen to the Lee Park statue and others of its kind. A federal judge halted the removal on Sept. 6 but then lifted the restraining order and allowed the removal to proceed.

U. S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater determined Hiram Peterson and the Sons of the Confederacy had not proven a violation of free speech and allowed the city to move ahead with the removal.

Workers prepare a statue of Robert E. Lee in Dallas’ Lee Park for removal.

Workers prepare a statue of Robert E. Lee in Dallas’ Lee Park for removal.

Robert E. Lee became the general-in-chief for the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865). History professor Dr. Clive Siegle argues that Lee is a significant historical figure because “He won some astonishing, stunning military victories. He was a brilliant commander. You can’t leave him out regardless of what uniform he has on.”

Nevertheless the statue of Lee, erected in 1936, remains controversial because opponents feel it glorifies the values of the Confederacy. Siegle attributes the causes of the Civil War to slavery of black Americans and states’ rights.

“Slavery was a powerful economic engine and lifestyle” across the South but a moral dillema. The 1860 census shows that in the states that would soon secede from the Union, an average of 25 percent of white families owned slaves.”

Siegle is skeptical, however, of destroying historical monuments just because they are controversial.

“That’s not the way history works; history has its good points and bad points.”

In his U.S. history course, Siegle passes around a brick used by a slave to build a house for his ancestors in Tennessee. It is not done to glorify slavery, but as a “teachable moment” to re-create the past.