Sons of Confederate Veterans Lose Lee Chapel Lease

Update: So many flags have been removed from various Confederate heritage sites that I apparently mixed them up today. The site in question in Richmond is the Confederate Memorial Chapel and not the Lee Chapel, which is located on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington. Confederate flags have also been removed from inside the chapel. You can read an update to that story here.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the situation at the Lee Chapel on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. The Lee-Jackson Camp No. 1, Sons of Confederate Veterans will no longer operate the chapel through a lease with the VMFA, but will instead have access through a use agreement.

The VMFA will now be able to devote its energies to site interpretation which is sorely lacking. The two times I visited the chapel an elderly gentleman lectured me more about modern politics than anything having to do with the history of the site. The site is much too important to be left to the SCV.

As for the Virginia Flaggers…well, they will not be affected by this change since they haven’t done much of anything to promote the Lee Chapel beyond complaining about the display of a Confederate flag out front. The decision, however, does highlight just how little impact they have made over the past four years. Perhaps they will raise another Confederate flag along a highway as compensation.

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26 comments… add one
  • Leo May 4, 2015 @ 7:28

    Apparently so.

  • Leo May 4, 2015 @ 5:05
    This is why the SCV is becoming so irrelevant. The Council of Consecutive Citizens (CofCC) is a well-documented hate group and now they have chimed in on the University of Tennessee flag controversy. One would think the SCV would be the first in line to, at least, attempt to distance the Confederate flag from the stain the CofCC. I have yet to find any statements of objection to this development from the SCV or any other heritage organization. However, you can find the Midsouth Flaggers crowing about it on their facebook page. I suppose one should not be shocked by a group who marched with League of the South – a the secessionists hate group.
    I honestly have nothing against the SCV or anyone who wishes to honor the memory of a Confederate ancestor. However, the SCV is only adding to the problem and these so-called heritage groups are only serving to make matters worse.

    • Andy Hall May 4, 2015 @ 6:49

      The Council of Conservative Citizens, headed until recently by the late Gordon Baum, is the successor to the segregationist Citizens’ Councils of the late 1950s/early 1960s.

      • Leo May 4, 2015 @ 6:56


        You would think the heritage crown would want to distance themselves from such people, but they either have the PR savvy of a bag of rocks or they do not mind the association.

  • A. Jackson May 1, 2015 @ 16:02

    I was shocked a few years ago when a man whose wife is a member of the UDC told me they pledge to the Confederate flag at the meetings…and I am not easily shocked…

    • Betty Giragosian May 4, 2015 @ 1:11

      Mr.Jackson, she did not understand the difference between a pledge and a salute. In our ritual, it is written: Pledge to the Flag of the United States of America, and then Salute to the Flag of your state, and lastly a salute to the Flag of the Confederate States of America. We would never pledge to to any other flag. I can understand your being shocked, but the lady just did not understand.
      I must say, she is a badly informed member!!

    • Debbie Page May 4, 2015 @ 2:02

      We also pledge to the US flag first, then the state flag, THEN SALUTE the Confederate flag. The UDC IS a Confederate lineage organization. Are you saying we shouldn’t mention or have Confederate flags at our meetings??

      Here is the salute we say: I salute the Confederate Flag with affection, reverence, and undying remembrance.

      We are NOT pledging allegiance or vowing to take up arms in defense of the Confederacy. We are just remembering. Isn’t remembering still legal?

      • Kevin Levin May 4, 2015 @ 2:19

        We are NOT pledging allegiance or vowing to take up arms in defense of the Confederacy.

        Of course not. Why would anyone today pledge allegiance to a government whose stated mission was the defense and spread of the institution of slavery. Thanks for the clarification.

      • Ken Noe May 4, 2015 @ 4:43

        I went to an SCV meeting two decades ago. When they recited the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, I turned to my friend who was a member and said, “Don’t they realize they’re denying that there was a right of secession?” He replied, “ssh, they haven’t figured it out yet.”

        • Betty Giragosian May 4, 2015 @ 6:02

          Does the present day Sons of Confederate Veterans give the pledge to the United States Flag???

          • Andy Hall May 4, 2015 @ 6:51

            Some do, but some reportedly don not. The John Bell Hood Camp in Galveston does, as does the Terry’s Texas Rangers Chapter of the UDC in Richmond, Texas (to cite two examples I’m familiar with.)

  • Pat Young May 1, 2015 @ 14:52

    As i pointed out on your blog last year, SCV and Flagger approaches to the VMFA and other state-supported entities with significant “Confederate” holdings are extremely counterproductive. Much of the rhetoric by the Heritage activists focuses on the “Southerness” of the decision makers and their racial or ancestral background.

    White Virginians make up 64% of the state’s population. Nearly 20% of Virginians are African Americans. Latinos make up more than 8% of the population, and that proportion nearly doubled in just the last ten years. 6% of Virginians are Asian. Half of the babies born in Virginia are non-white and/or Latino. Among the U.S.-born portion of the total population, 45% were born outside of Virginia.

    White, Virginia-born Virginians are now a shrinking minority of the population of that state. The state’s majority are just as Virginian as those descended from soldiers of the ANV, even if they are black or Latino, or born on Long Island.

  • M. E. Martin May 1, 2015 @ 12:39

    The primary flagger impact has been to taint the SCV through their ugly harassment tactics and lies. But then many SCV members, from local camps, state officers, and national commander, joined the sidewalk gang’s activities. So no surprise that this SCV camp lost its $1/year lease. The real surprise is that, after everything, the commonwealth & museum are still willing to allow them to use the building on occasion.

  • Leo May 1, 2015 @ 6:49

    I considered joining the SCV, but abandoned that idea after attending one of their memorial services. During the opening invocation, the preacher, dressed as a Confederate officer, prayed to God for deliverance of the Southern people from a tyrannical central government determined to destroy the South and erase all vestiges of southern culture and heritage from the Earth. He also referred to the American flag as the Union flag as opposed to the flag of the United States.

    I am more interested in learning about the life of my Confederate ancestor than this political nonsense. I just find actual History more compelling than mythmaking and playing secessionist. I would love to learn more about why my ancestor fought, camp life, battles, and participate in the preservation of historic sites and graves.

    I don’t know what happened to the SCV, but they have marginalized themselves.

  • Rob Orrison May 1, 2015 @ 4:18

    Agreed….though I think the Confederate flag should be displayed on the exterior of the building in some fashion, there is no real interpretation there and it is needed. Knowing many people in the VMFA leadership, I know that a constructive dialogue and well meaning discussions would go a long way for the SCV/Flaggers to work out a compromise that would benefit the site and its visitors. I doubt that will happen though. On another note, there are some good SCV camps out there that do raise money for preservation and delve into historical interp, not modern politics. They are rare, but do exist.

    • Kevin Levin May 1, 2015 @ 4:27

      Whether the flag is displayed or not must take a backseat to properly interpreting the structure and especially the interior.

      …I know that a constructive dialogue and well meaning discussions would go a long way for the SCV/Flaggers…

      Any opportunity to engage in dialogue with the Flaggers is long passed. They have never been interested in such a discussion. In fact, familiarity with the most vocal members of the group reveals that they are ill-equipped to engage in such conversations. There may be a few camps left that are interested in history, but this was a perfect opportunity for the national leadership to try to do something constructive, but they have largely alienated themselves from the general public’s interest.

      • Rob Orrison May 1, 2015 @ 7:47

        I agree…was just stating that if they had been willing, I know personally that the door was open to them. But, they declined and chose a different route…unwise on their part

    • Jimmy Dick May 1, 2015 @ 6:21

      I do not see how there can be any dialogue with the SCV and flaggers when those two groups reject the idea that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. The role of blacks in the South is something they would prefer to either ignore or mangle. So right there are two big issues where historical interpretation would have to falsified in order to satisfy their views. That is not going to happen. Those two groups are going to have to either change their views on those subjects or move farther and farther to the edges of historical interpretations as facts triumph over fiction.

      They’re already moving steadily to the margins with the flaggers having been there for a while. There should not be any compromise when it comes to factual history. History happened as it did whether we like it or not. My ancestors, your ancestors, everyone’s ancestors did what they did for their reasons, not ours. We are not them. They made their choices for right or wrong. I did not make their choices for them. I cannot change the past to put my ancestors in a better light.

      That’s one of the main problems for those groups. They are dedicated to preserving a fictional history in order to present their ancestors in the best possible light even when that means lying about the past. I have a real problem with that. One of the great things about studying history is so that we can take what we learn from the past and compare it with the present. It provides ideas about what has worked, what has failed, why that was, and gives us some insight as to what we can do in the present. Lying about the past does not help us in those measures. So until the SCV and flaggers decide they want to use a factual based history, I really see no reason to bother to engage them in dialogue and I certainly vehemently oppose any compromise that involves distorting the past in any way.

    • M. E. Martin May 1, 2015 @ 12:00

      There is an interpretive panel that shows and talks about the Confederate national flag just outside the chapel, and plenty of various kinds of Confederate flags, including the battle flag, inside the building. Flaggers not interested in those or any other means of interpreting the site’s history, only that a CBF or two hang from the chapel portico.

  • Rob Baker May 1, 2015 @ 3:32

    I’m not sure what you’ve seen in the parts of VA you’ve lived in Kevin, but in Georgia and Tennessee I’ve yet to run into a SCV group that interprets history more than they do modern politics.

    I’m glad the VMFA can dedicate resources to the interpretation of the site. I only hope that they invest the resources to do just that. At the same time, I hope the SCV does not totally abandon the chapel. Despite their flaws, the SCV members are extremely good at putting in man hours for volunteer work, such as ground maintenance.

    • Kevin Levin May 1, 2015 @ 3:34

      This wasn’t just a little politics sprinkled in, but way over-the-top. I went through a second time just to see if the first visit was a fluke, but the gentleman offered the exact same interpretation.

      • Rob Baker May 1, 2015 @ 3:44

        I can believe that. I have a picture somewhere of an SCV recruiting stand at a Re-enactment I went to. At their stand, the SCV had a copy of the first page of the Constitution that was made into a poster. It was taller than the stand itself. Below it was a sign that read, “Defending the Constitution Since 1861”

    • M.D. Blough May 1, 2015 @ 16:40

      Rob-The problem with SCV being more interested in modern politics than in history is national. Because of my involvement with the Longstreet Memorial Fund and the erection of the Longstreet equestrian statue at Gettysburg National Military Park, I became very well-acquainted with many SCV members, particularly from North Carolina, in the 1990s. When the takeover of the SCV at every level, especially national, by League of the South adherents, occurred, the North Carolina SCV was one of the major opponents of the takeover. As a result of which, all of my friends were either purged by the new leadership (particularly if the North Carolinians held any SCV office) or left because they were so repulsed by the views of the new SCV leadership at all levels. The Virginia SCV, with Brag Bowling speaking for the SCV there (remember the ruckus he tried to raise over the statue of President Lincoln and Tad at Tredegar), mostly supported the takeover

      • Rob Baker May 4, 2015 @ 8:59

        M.D. –

        I’ve yet to meet a heritage advocated that didn’t interpret the past (if we can actually call it interpreting) through the window of modern politics. It’s unfortunate the LoS perpetrated the NC SCV. I have friends in Georgia who take pride in the fact that they kept the LoSers out of influence in the Georgia SCV. Granted, I don’t know the particulars of that situation so they could be wrong about that.

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