- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2000

RICHMOND Replacing the portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, burned beyond recovery in an outdoor gallery, will not be difficult, but the decision to do so must wait for the president of the foundation that runs the gallery to return from an out-of-town trip.
James McCarthy, executive director of the Riverfront Development Corp., said the portraits on a downtown floodwall near the James River were designed to be replaced every 18 months anyway, and it should be easy to put up a new one if the group decides to do so. The Lee picture was one of 13 portraits in the mural, and the other 12 remain.
On Monday the celebration of Lee-Jackson-King Day, which honors Martin Luther King and Confederate Gens. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the portrait, causing a flash fire.
Richmond police released new details about the crime yesterday, including the existence of a videotape from a nearby surveillance camera that monitors the area. Investigators are "optimistic" the arson may be on the tape. Police also found pieces of the firebomb and have sent them off for fingerprint analysis.
"The burning of the Lee mural is a crime that affects the entire community and is being treated as such," said Jerry A. Oliver, chief of police. "This is no simple vandalism. It's a malicious, felonious crime."
Police are offering a $5,000 reward for information on the culprit or culprits.
At a rally yesterday which was Lee's birthday the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans offered a $1,000 reward for information on those who threw the Molotov cocktail.
"If we just smack this person on the hand and let it go, it'll happen again," said Robert W. "Red" Barbour Sr., commander of the Virginia division of Sons of Confederate Veterans, who said yesterday if the picture had been of King, it would have been called a hate crime.
Monday's celebration of Lee-Jackson-King Day may have been the last. Yesterday, Gov. James S. Gilmore III offered specifics of his plan to separate Lee-Jackson Day from King Day.
As expected, the plan calls for moving a holiday for the Confederate generals to the second Friday in January, three days before the federal holiday for King, which is observed on the third Monday in January. That would create a four-day weekend for state employees and any other businesses or local governments who follow suit.
Lawmakers generally seemed supportive of separating the days of recognition, but some Lee supporters were not.
Mr. Barbour said his group would like to leave Lee-Jackson-King Day intact, calling the inclusion of King in 1983 a welcome addition that enhanced the celebration. But if the separation goes through, he said the Sons of Confederate Veterans prefers to have Lee-Jackson keep the Monday holiday because it is closer to Lee's birthday and Jackson's birthday on Jan. 21.
The most pressing need, Lee's fans say, is to teach Southern, Confederate and Virginia history better so people will understand why Lee and Jackson deserve recognition.
"I think a lot of the criticism General Lee gets from some corners would not occur if there were more education about [him]," said retired Adm. Thomas Bass, executive director of Stratford Hall, the Lee family home in the Northern Neck.
Stratford has made strong efforts to educate the public, offering two seminars for teachers every summer to help them better understand slavery and leadership in the South.
For instance, Lee opposed secession and deplored slavery, Adm. Bass said. His decision to fight for the Confederacy was based on his love for his state, not approval of those practices.
For its celebration, the hall hosted Lee portrayer Arthur Twigg, who spoke to 250 visitors, many of them schoolchildren.
"Only by educating our children will a true understanding of our history be reached. Robert E. Lee will be understood to be the icon that he is," Mr. Barbour said.

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