Robert E. Lee statue will remain in Georgia park for now

RICHMOND HILL, Ga. — While statues and monuments honoring the Confederacy have been dismantled or defaced in recent weeks, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee will remain in a Georgia park because a state law forbids the relocation of war monuments, city officials said.

Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter said the city council is working to build a committee of African Americans and historians to discuss the future of the statue, which is at J.F. Gregory Park, the Savannah Morning News reported.

The law that currently prevents the removal of the statue is from §50-3-1 of the Georgia state codes. According to the statute, it is illegal for “any person, firm, corporation, or other entity acting without authority” to “mutilate, deface, defile, abuse contemptuously, relocate, remove, conceal, or obscure any privately owned monument, plaque, marker, or memorial which is dedicated to, honors, or recounts the military service of any past or present military personnel of this state, the United States of America or the several states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or the several states thereof.”

The statue of Lee was given to Richmond Hill 18 years ago when developers of the Ford Plantation decided the statue didn’t have a place in the property’s future, the Morning News reported.

During a forum Saturday, Carpenter said he and city council members originally decided to remove the statue until a better location was found, the newspaper reported. Another alternative was to move the statue to nearby Fort McAllister, which is located on state property.

Carpenter said his city would need to secure permission from the state to move the Lee statue to the fort, according to the Morning News.

Councilmember Steve Scholar said Wednesday he realizes the statue is divisive, but the city attorney said they needed to get past the state law to move it.

The Rev. Hubert Quiller of Restoration Worship Center in Richmond Hill said the statue represents an unpleasant time for Black people in the community.

“Each time I walk by the statue, I must ask myself how my great-great-great-grandfather or great-great-great-grandmother would feel if she had to walk past it, or he had to walk by it,” Quiller told the Morning News.

“I think we have to strike a balance between differing views,” Carpenter said. “It is a symbol. It is history, but yes, it’s being divisive.”