As if guided by instinct, there is a need to look up within the rotunda of the United States Capitol, the Apotheosis of Washington painted high above the statues of statesmen guarding the corridors of Congress.
But below the feet of George Washington’s rotunda statue, in the crypt of the Capitol, a controversy has once again emerged. A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is the subject of a new bill submitted in Virginia’s state legislature – one that would remove the statue from Washington and return it to the Commonwealth.
Each state contributes two statues of its most notable citizens to the U.S. Capitol. More than a century ago, Virginia chose George Washington as its most historic figure. Robert E. Lee was the second choice – his statue now underneath the Capitol rotunda.
“Bottom line, I just don’t think Lee is the second greatest Virginian we have,” said Virginia Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) in an interview Wednesday. “We have Monroe, Madison, figures from the Civil Rights Movement.”
Del. Levine sponsors the bill, which has been recommended to the House Rules Committee.
If passed, the bill would create a group of six people to decide the historic person to take Lee’s place.
Two people would be appointed by Virginia’s governor, with a third member joining from the House of Delegates.
A fourth member would be appointed from the state Senate, and the Director of Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources would serve as the fifth member. A final member would be chosen by the group.