Recent letters regarding removal of Civil War statues in New Orleans have described Robert E. Lee as “a man of exceptional character” and mentioned his 32 years of active duty with the Federal Army before choosing to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. Yet no one has written about Lee, the man.

He was a slave owner at Arlington, now the National Cemetery. He whipped his slaves on occasion because he was too compassionate to let his overseer administer the beating, which would have been much more brutal.

He is known to have gone hungry by giving his last stores to feed his slaves. Was he the most noble American ever — or was it George Washington? Refusing to lambast or punish his inferior officers when they fouled up was the only negative officer evaluation he ever received. Noblesse Oblige was a term invented for Lee, who treated all who never had his advantages in life with utmost respect and caring.

During the prelude to the onset of the Civil War, he argued against slavery repeatedly. Such resistance to popular opinion among the lower ranks would have resulted in a tar and feathering — or worse. He stayed up all night agonizing over whether to lead the North or the South (like a great athlete, he had offers from both).

After the war political parties besieged him with pleas to run for president, but unlike other Confederate generals who sold out in a heartbeat, Lee respectfully declined, telling them politics was much too dirty for him. Washington University, a small college in Virginia, asked him to be their chancellor. He agreed, and when he died in 1870, they re-named it Washington & Lee.

Why would the New Orleans Metro Council remove the state of such a man? He was not a rich man, having been forced to earn his own living due to his father Lighthorse Harry Lee’s (Revolutionary War hero) dissolute lifestyle. He never complained, always put the mission first and his feelings second. Always fit, groomed, tailored and shaved, one lady described him as “the handsomest man I’ve ever met.”

Why let racism get in the way of history? Why is this happening? Is there money to be made in racism?

Ted McGehee

landscaper, retired military

Baton Rouge