Guest Opinion: Robert E. Lee — American role model at the right time
September 6, 2017


As the civil war came to an end, few Americans, and virtually no Southerners, responded better to President Lincoln's plea to the nation, "to bind up our nations' wounds," than former Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

This is a man who had inherited slaves previously owned by his wife's father, then freed them all. And he is the man, who, after the surrender at Appomattox Court House, urged his defeated army to, "return to your homes and be good citizens."

That request alone required enormous courage from a man who, by most of his southern countrymen, would have been justified in bearing lifelong resentment of those who had just defeated him. Instead, he would spend most of the rest of his life as president of what today is one of the most respected universities in the United States.

Lee arguably can be viewed as one of the most influential, and positive, transitional leaders in the country at a time when healing was in short supply and desperately needed. By comparison, during those same years President Andrew Johnson and the U.S. Congress were dismal failures.

These attributes of Lee are unknown by many, and unspoken too often by the rest, as we try to sum up the character of this giant figure in American, not just southern, history.

Unless and until the Florida Legislature changes the name of our county, we citizens of Lee County would do well to focus on these positive characteristics of Robert E. Lee, which we should all try to emulate.

And, in that spirit, I believe it is time to consider carefully the compromise suggestion of the local NAACP to remove the painting of Lee in the court house in his Confederate uniform, and replace it with one of him in academic regalia.

This is how he was seen in his final years, while demonstrating by his own example his personal leadership in binding up the nation's wounds.

- Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann represents District 5


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