As Robert E. Lee Statue Is Removed, Largest Confederate Memorial in U.S. Will Likely Stay

The largest Confederate memorial in the country will still be around even after the commonwealth of Virginia removes the statue of General Robert E. Lee.

The monument of Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, the largest Confederate statue in the county, will be taken down on September 8, after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled it should come down.

In a September 2 statement confirming the decision more than 130 years after it was installed, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam described the ruling as an "important step towards moving the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond forward into a more inclusive, just future."

He added: "Today it is clear—the largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down."

In a follow-up statement on September 6, Norman altered the description of the 30-foot statue to "Virginia's largest monument to the Confederate insurrection."

Historian and author Kevin M. Levin noted that the Lee statue is not the biggest Confederate memorial in the U.S.

In fact, the biggest Confederate memorial in the entire world is currently, and looks almost certain to remain, the 90-foot high carving on the side of Stone Mountain in Georgia.

"The media seems to be having a field day with the idea that the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond is the largest Confederate monument in the country," Levin wrote. "It doesn't even come close to the relief sculpture of Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson at Stone Mountain, Georgia."

The 90-foot bas-relief sculpture carved into a rock face at Stone Mountain Park was completed in 1972 and also features Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Stonewall Jackson.

Just like the Lee statue in Richmond, the Stonewall Mountain memorial has featured heavily in the debate on whether remove monuments of Confederate leaders in the wake of the murder of Minneapolis man George Floyd in May 2020.

However, demands to take down the memorial just like the Confederate statues across the country have frequently hit a wall due to the logistics of such an operation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously noted that removing it from the side of a mountain would likely take several years at high costs and using explosives.

While the actual carving look set to remain, steps have been taken to remove others symbols of the Confederacy from the national park.

In August, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association voted to adopt a new logo that will not feature the huge carving of the Confederate leaders. Instead, the updated logo will feature an image of a lake that is located inside the park and a side of the mountain where the memorial is not visible.

Officials also voted to relocate the Confederate flags lining the park's main walk-up trail to the base of the mountain to a less prominent area, as well as install an exhibit that will teach about the site's connection to the rebirth Ku Klux Klan.

The white supremacist hate group celebrated its rebirth with a cross-burning ceremony on the mountain on Thanksgiving in 1915.

Despite its controversy, the memorial is Georgia's most visited attraction, drawing nearly 4 million guests each year, according to the Smithsonian magazine.

In a statement about the Lee Statue, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said: "We are taking an important step this week to embrace the righteous cause and put the 'Lost Cause' behind us.

"Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality."

stone mountain memorial
The Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain Park, depicting three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson on July 18, 2015 in Stone Mountain, Georgia Raymond Boyd/Getty Images