Bud Kennedy

Why Robert E. Lee memorial in Dallas may be coming to Fort Worth area

A statue honoring Robert E. Lee, right, with a soldier riding alongside him, in Robert E. Lee Park, a City of Dallas park, in the Turtle Creek area of Dallas was removed.
A statue honoring Robert E. Lee, right, with a soldier riding alongside him, in Robert E. Lee Park, a City of Dallas park, in the Turtle Creek area of Dallas was removed. AP

Dallas would like to unload a memorial to a Confederate general, and all the historical conflict that goes with it.

What more fitting place than a Civil War museum, right?

White Settlement city officials and Texas Civil War Museum leaders said Tuesday they will welcome the 1935 bronze sculpture, “Robert E. Lee and Young Soldier,” if the Dallas City Council goes ahead Wednesday with plans to loan it out.

Get ready. Museum founder and president Ray Richey said the giant bronze of Lee astride his famous horse, Traveller, would go just south of the museum on Loop 820.

A giant Confederate war memorial would draw both attention and notoriety for the museum, which is devoted to Texans on both sides of the war and until now has purposely displayed artifacts equally.

“We don't tilt the museum one way or the other, but this is such a really beautiful piece of art,” Richey said.

“They're looking for a place to put it. I just think this'd be a good spot here.”

Dallas officials decided to move the memorial after white supremacists and nationalists staged a violent, deadly rally at a Lee statue in Charlottesvlle, Va.

White Settlement Mayor Ronald White said he does not expect any such rally in White Settlement, a postwar-era suburb that took the name of a 19th-century frontier village and school nearby.

“We've had the museum here for years, and we have not had one incident,” White said.

(Judy and Ray Richey, Parker County residents, built the museum in 2006 to showcase their personal collection of war-era antiques and ladies' and girls' dresses. It's not affiliated with any scholarly effort, although McMurry University professor Don Frazier is an unofficial consultant.)

Richey said the museum has never been a base or target for any kind of rally. The museum displays more Union artifacts than Confederate, he said.

Cindy Harriman, the director, said accepting the sculpture does not mean the museum will favor the Confederate side.

“If someone wanted to give us a statue of [Union] Gen. Sherman, and we had space for it, I'm sure we'd take it,” she said.

“We have Gen. [Ulysses] Grant's coat worn at Appomattox,” where Confederates surrendered, and also Gen. Phillip Sheridan's headquarters flag blanket.

Dallas will dictate specific conditions for how to display and interpret the sculpture, she said.

But the museum has already drawn the attention of Dallas writer Edward Sebesta, author of books on the modern-day rise of Southern secession movements and the notable absence of African-Americans, slaves and slavery from depictions in Civil War history.

The Civil War Museum is “really a Museum of the Confederacy,” Sebesta wrote on Facebook, publishing a 21-page report on the museum's strong ties to Confederate lineage societies that sometimes stray into racist or secessionist political activism.

Richey said he knows the museum needs more material highlighting African-Americans and their role on both sides of the war. He is acquiring a special exhibit on the Union's African-American troops.

Adding to the controversy is that almost nobody in Dallas understands the name White Settlement.

The name dates back to three families that settled in cabins on the Western frontier in what is now Westworth. A school was built farther west, and kept the historic name White Settlement.

“People up north or east look at it and think it's racist, until we explain,” Mayor White said.

Dallas might be sending him something new to explain.

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