Local lawmakers reintroduce legislation to remove Lee’s name from Arlington House | ARLnow

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Arlington House, seen from Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery in 2011 (staff photo)

(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Local lawmakers again introduced legislation to officially remove Robert E. Lee’s name from Arlington House.

For fifty years, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial” has been the official name of the National Park Service-run mansion that sits atop a hill at Arlington National Cemetery.

But in recent years there has been a push to remove Lee’s name from the memorial and return it to its original name, simply “Arlington House”.

In 2020, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va) proposed legislation to do just that since Arlington House is in his district. The bill was co-sponsored by two other local representatives, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va), along with DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Beyer said at the time that the legislation was partly inspired by requests for name changes from descendants of those enslaved at Arlington House. However, the bill never made it out of committee and no changes were made.

Two years later, however, those local lawmakers are trying again with a bicameral push.

The House bill is co-sponsored by Beyer, Connelly, Wexton and Norton, while a new Senate bill is sponsored by Tim Kaine (D-Va). The legislation, if passed and signed into law, would remove the Confederate general’s name from the house he once lived in.

“If we are serious about ending racial disparity, we must stop honoring those who fought to protect slavery,” Kaine said in a press release. “I am proud to be part of the effort to rename Arlington House, and I will continue to fight for the kind of reforms we need to create a society that provides freedom and justice for all.”

This year’s bills are very similar to 2020’s, Beyer communications director Aaron Fritschner confirmed to ARLnow, except for minor language changes including the addition of an official historic site designation. .

If the legislation is passed, the mansion will officially be called “The Arlington House National Historic Site.”

The building that now sits inside Arlington National Cemetery was first built by slaves in the early 19th century to be the residence of George Washington Parke Custis. It was also intended to be a memorial to George Washington, Custis’ adoptive grandfather.

Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, married Robert E. Lee in 1831. The future Confederate general was known to be a cruel and sometimes violent householder.

During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the house along with the land and turned it into a military cemetery.

In 1955, Congress passed legislation to designate the house as the “Custis-Lee Mansion”. The name was changed again in 1972 to what it is today, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial”.

For years, Arlington House has featured prominently in the county’s logo. That changed last year after a push to drop the house from the logo, largely due to its official name and association with Lee.

(An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Lee’s relationship to home and property.)

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