'The Lees Are Complex’: Descendants Grapple With Rebel General’s Legacy

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tags: Confederacy, Robert E Lee



Few American families are as deeply embedded in the nation’s history as the Lees of Virginia. Members of the clan signed the Declaration of Independence, served the new nation as judges and generals, lawmakers and governors, and one, Zachary Taylor, even became president.

For decades, the family appeared to be united in promoting the adulation of its best-known member, the pre-eminent Confederate general Robert E. Lee. But now, as tempers flare around the country over Confederate monuments and what they stand for, the Lees are grappling anew with the general’s checkered legacy. And along with many other families, they are divided over what to do about public statues of a famous forebear.

“Like so much else in this world, the Lees are complex,” said Blair Lee IV, 72, a retired real estate developer from Maryland who describes Robert E. Lee as a “distant cousin.”

“The war pitted brother against brother and cousin against cousin,” he said, “and we’re still at this today.”




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