Posted on October 9, 2018

Washington and Lee Renames Buildings; Orders Portraits of Lee, Washington in Military Attire Replaced

Bob Brown, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 9, 2018

Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.

The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing. The board also ordered the doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel to be closed during university events.


In a statement, J. Donald Childress, rector of the Board of Trustees, and William C. Dudley, president of the board, said, “{snip} We are fortunate to be part of a community that cares deeply about this institution and is so dedicated to its continued success.”

Last year, W&L President William named the Commission on Institutional History and Community to address the university’s history after the visceral national response to events in Charlottesville, when white nationalists protested plans to remove a statue of Lee from a city park. {snip}


Robert E. Lee was president of Washington College from 1865, shortly after the Confederate surrender, until his death in 1870, when his name was added to the institution’s. Lee Chapel is a central building to campus life — Lee and his family are buried there.