On a Sunday morning in 1865, not long after Appomatox, parishioners gathered for worship at St. Paul’s Church in downtown Richmond, Virginia. St. Paul’s was, and is today, a substantial place. Its congregation is of largely white membership, although in the 1800s, St. Paul’s sanctuary included a section for seating black worshipers.

That morning, the worship service proceeded to the time for communion. At that point, a neatly dressed, distinguished-looking black man arose, walked down the center aisle and knelt at the communion rail. The Confederate congregation was shocked into motionless silence. The presiding minister was nonplussed, standing confused and still.

This situation remained for what seemed like an eternity. Then a tall, white-haired, white-bearded man stood up, also came down the aisle and also knelt at the communion rail near the black man.

That tall, white-haired man was Robert Edward Lee. His action — and prestige as a man of honor, which still lives today — defused a tense situation. It showed that black people and white people CAN live, worship and even take communion together.

And my New Orleans brothers and sisters are going to remove Lee’s historic statue from the famous circle?

Yup, I’m a Damyankee. But I believe that historic statue removals will harm New Orleans’ nationwide reputation as a place of historic pride and happy welcome. Even with your marvelous eateries, museums, music venues, Mardi Gras and the Saints, vacating part of your honored history is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Is this what you really want?

Wesley Hanson

retired music professor

Muncie, Indiana