Sons of Confederate Veterans group celebrates Lee’s legacy

By Greg Phillips

Published: January 19, 2009

Circumstances do not dictate your character, they reveal it and become the opportunity to refine it.

That sentence can sum up the life and legacy of Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to Dr. Harry L. Reeder III, author of “The Leadership Dynamic” and a consultant on the film, “Gods and Generals.”

Reeder spoke at the William C. Oates branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ dinner honoring Lee’s birthday on Monday.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans plays host to a dinner each year honoring the January birthdays of Lee and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and this year’s happened to fall on Lee’s exact birthday.

While most of the nation’s attention Monday went to celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reeder said Lee deserved recognition as well.

“Very few people really study his life. He is one of the most significant men in the history of this country and basically becomes a footnote in most history books,” Reeder said. “He is probably the most thoughtful, consistent Christian I’ve ever studied other than Jackson. Secondly, he’s obviously a brilliant military commander. Third, his family life was exemplary. He was constantly engaged in his church. He was ahead of his time in dealing with the slavery issue. He was part of a group (whose) point was the slaves needed to be educated, given marketable skills and property ownership in order to have total assimilation.”

But since Lee fought for the South, many historians tend to lump him in with more villainous historic figures.

Reeder, however, counts him among his role models, alongside the likes of Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington.

“It’s revisionist history, shoddy scholarship. People looking to make a name for themselves don’t deal honestly with the history of his life,” Reeder said. “But if you studied his life, you would be like the people after the (Civil) War, both North and South, Europe and America, that when they looked at him, they all realized that here was a man who transcended stereotypes. He was a man of great impact.”

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