The Robert E. Lee statue stood in Lee Park, now Oak Lawn Park. Patrick Williams
Dallas racked up its second big win over the Confederacy in recent years Wednesday when a person known only as LawDude made the winning $1,435,000 bid to buy the city’s Robert E. Lee statue, which has been sitting at Henley Field in Grand Prairie since 2017.
The purchase price will cover the $450,000 the city paid to have the Lee statue removed as well as the cost of removing the Confederate War Memorial, estimated at about $500,000, which currently towers over Pioneer Park near Dallas City Hall.
The Dallas City Council voted 13-1 to take the statue down in August 2017, in response to both the racist riot that led to counter-protester Heather Heyer’s death in Charlottesville, Virginia, and an increased push from local activists who’d long sought to remove Dallas’ multiple monuments to white supremacy.
After taking the statue down, the city sought to find an institution that could take the statue and display it in appropriate historical context. When it failed to receive any offers from institutions not tied to the Stars and Bars crowd, Dallas decided to put the equine tribute to the general who sold out his country to fight for the institution of slavery up for auction, leading to a bidding frenzy that will see the city collect about three times more than its $450,000 reserve price.
"It’s what I’ve been telling people for over a year," City Council member Philip Kingston says. "I don’t know how racial equity is a waste of money, but there was never any fiscal danger to the city at all because we always knew we were going to recoup all of the expenses (from taking down the statue) with the sale of the statue. I would hope people who opposed the removal will now feel better because it’s clearly going to an owner that values it highly."
The empty platform on which the Robert E. Lee statue stood. Jim Schutze
The idea that the city could just sell the statue — despite it being city property — proved enough to dumbfound some Lost Cause supporters.
A woman who said she was from Virginia named Wendy Hazlet called the Observer offices Wednesday to see if anything could be done to stop the sale.
"As Americans, I just can’t believe that we treat it like it’s not even a piece of art," Hazlet says. "I can’t believe that everybody is just acting like this is proper or this is right."
Hazlet couldn’t believe Dallas exercised the right to sell its property by such an overwhelming margin.
"Y’all’s cities are like the ghetto right, in Texas?" she asked. "So America has no say — just the city — when it comes to that statue? … I thought they were all protected by the laws, you know, historical monuments. War memorials."
The Observer told Hazlet that the statues weren’t monuments to the United States, but were monuments to the Confederate States of America, a country that waged war on the United States and that no longer exists.
"Y’all really believe that? They are United States war memorials," Hazlet says. "They didn’t fight to protect their lives? They didn’t have people invading their homes? OK. All right. Thank you."