Happy 201st Birthday Robert E. Lee

By: Guest Authors

By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.

Do your children know who Robert E. Lee was? His birthday falls during the same week of January as Martin Luther King. Both these men have, today, become American and International Heroes.

Some people call it a contradiction to remember the birthday of Robert E. Lee during the birthday week of Martin Luther King. But, Dr. Edward C. Smith, a respected African-American Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C., has spoken in honor of both men. He said, in a 1995 Robert E. Lee birthday speech in Atlanta, Georgia, that “King and Lee were individuals worthy of emulation because they understood history.”

Do we truly understand the history of our nation?

In 1907, on the Centennial of Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., a former Union Commander and grandson of US President John Quincy Adams, spoke in tribute of Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee College’s “Lee Chapel.” His speech was published in Northern and Southern newspapers and is said to had lifted Robert E. Lee to a renewed respect among the American people.

Veteran actor Robert Duvall, a descendant of Robert E. Lee, played Lee in the 2003 movie “Gods and Generals.” Duvall, in a 2003 CNN interview with Robert Novak, spoke of his Virginia roots and of his showing a half hour excerpt of the movie to Servicemen and women at Baltimore Airport on their way to the Persian Gulf and possible combat. Read the transcript of the interview at:


Saturday, January 19, 2008, is the 201st Birthday of a great American Soldier, Educator, Christian Gentlemen, Husband and Father—Robert E. Lee.

Did you know that Booker T. Washington, America’s great African-American Educator, wrote in 1910, quote “The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South, to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday-school were Robert E. Lee and ‘Stonewall Jackson?” unquote

What is your church or synagogue doing to remember Gen. Lee?

During the week of Robert E. Lee’s birthday in 1899, Bishop Morrison, of Atlanta, Georgia’s First Methodist Church, eulogized General Robert E. Lee to a standing room only crowd that included soldiers who fought with Lee.

But, why do some people want to hide history?

Why were Soldier Memorial Plaques, which included a quote by Gen. Robert E. Lee, removed from the Texas Supreme Court Building in Austin,

Who was Robert E. Lee?

Robert E. Lee was born at Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia on January 19, 1807. The winter was cold and fire places were little help for Lee’s Mother, Ann Hill (Carter) Lee who suffered from a severe cold.

Ann Lee named her son “Robert Edward” after her two brothers. Robert E. Lee undoubtedly acquired his love of country from those who had lived during the American Revolution. His Father, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, was a hero of the Revolution and served as governor of Virginia and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Members of his family also signed the Declaration of Independence.

Lee was educated in the schools of Alexandria, Virginia. In 1825, he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated in 1829, second in his class and without a single demerit.

Lee was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of the United States Engineer Corps. His first assignment was at Cockspur Island, Georgia to supervise the construction of Fort Pulaski.

Robert E. Lee wed Mary Anna Randolph Custis on June 30, 1831, two years after his graduation from West Point. Robert and Mary had grown up together. Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and adopted son of George Washington.

Mary was an only child; therefore, she inherited Arlington House, across the Potomac from Washington, where she and Robert raised seven children. Arlington House was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933 and in 1955 the mansion was designated as a memorial to Robert E. Lee.

In 1836, Lee was appointed first Lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of Captain, he distinguished himself during the War with Mexico.

Lee was appointed superintendent of West Point in 1852.

President Abraham Lincoln, through Secretary Francis Blair, offered Lee command of the Union Army, but he refused. He said, “I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children.”

War was in the air. The country was in turmoil of separation. For days Lee wrestled with his soul. He had faithfully served in the United States Army for over 30 years. Lee reluctantly resigned his commission and headed home to Virginia.

Lee served as adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and then commanded the legendary Army of Northern Virginia.

After four years of death and destruction, Gen. Robert E. Lee met Gen. Ulysses S.Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, and ended their battles.

Lee was called Marse Robert, Uncle Robert and Marble Man.

A prolific letter-writer, Lee wrote his most famous quote to one of his sons in 1852: “Duty is the sublimest word in our language.”

In the fall of 1865, Lee was offered and accepted the presidency of troubled Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. The school was renamed Washington and Lee in his memory. Robert E. Lee died of a heart attack on October 12, 1870. He is buried in Lee Chapel on the school grounds with his family and favorite horse, Traveller. See more on Lee Chapel at: http://chapelapps.wlu.edu/default.asp

Sir Winston Churchill called Lee “one of the noblest Americans who ever lived.”

Lest we forget our nation’s heroes!!

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