U.S.

Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Wore Confederate Uniform in College Yearbook: Says He Has 'Come to Regret That'

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee apologized for wearing a Confederate uniform in a 1980 Auburn University yearbook photo days after his staff members said they were unaware of the photo.

“While I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way, with 40 years of hindsight, I have come to realize that was insensitive and have come to regret that,” Lee told The Tennessean.

Governor Bill Lee Mary Barra, General Motors Chairman and CEO, speaks with Bill Lee, governor-elect of Tennessee, at the Garden Theater on January 13, in Detroit. Lee has apologized for wearing a Confederate uniform in college photos. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The Republican governor attended Auburn University between 1977 and 1981 and was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. The fraternity was known for hosting annual “Old South” parties, which had members dress up in Confederate uniforms, the newspaper reported.

A school spokesman confirmed to The Associated Press that the fraternity ended the tradition in 1992. The fraternity banned chapters from displaying Confederate battle flags at fraternity events since 2001.

The photo from Lee’s college days came after photos emerged of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook displaying a person in blackface and another in a KKK hood. He initially acknowledged he was in the photo and apologized, before changing his story and claiming it was not him in the picture, CNN reported.

On Wednesday, Northam canceled the first stop of his apology tour after the Virginia Union University student government asked him not to attend a chapel service honoring 1960s-era civil rights protesters. The governor announced the decision on Twitter.

“I appreciate the original invitation of VUU’s administration, but I will abide by the students’ wishes,” he said in a letter. “I accept the Student Government Association’s invitation for future dialogue and honest conversation issues of race, reconciliation and equity.”

He added: “I welcome opportunities to listen, learn and discuss how we can move Virginia forward.”

Northam, a Democrat, faced backlash from his party and calls for his resignation after the photos came to light. He said that he had no intention of resigning.

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