JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Robert W. Lee is the namesake and 4th nephew of General Robert E. Lee.
The name itself is a painful reminder of part of America’s past. For Robert W. Lee, it’s also a family name.
Lee grew up with Southern traditions. A Confederate flag hung in Lee’s room as a teen, and he learned a lot about his distant uncle.
“I had a deep and abiding respect for Robert E. Lee, but as things evolved, as I evolved as a person and a pastor, I realized … I couldn’t be doing what I am doing now supporting my ancestor,” Lee said.
Over time, Lee took on a battle between family heritage and facing what he calls his family’s racist past.
Lee is now a pastor in North Carolina. He has made it part of his career to address monuments and buildings like Lee High School named after his distant uncle.
“I am totally against all of these names on these buildings that celebrate confederate heroes including my ancestor,” Lee said.
Lee is also backing Lee High School teacher Amy Donofrio. She was reassigned after fallout over a Black Lives Matter flag hanging outside of her classroom.
According to the district she is under review for allegations of potential misconduct. Lee believes Donofrio has played an instrumental role in the lives of her students and hopes she is soon back in the classroom.
Some believe the name should remain, citing heritage and history. It’s part of a long standing disagreement about Lee’s name and several other schools in the area.
In the U.S. more than 200 schools are named after Confederate leaders including Lee High School in Riverside.
Several meetings surrounding the name sparked deep emotions from both sides, some saying that a name change would erase history.
Voting for a possible name continues this week, and the district won’t say where the tally sits on the vote. Lee said no matter the outcome he wants unity and most of all respect towards one another.
Depending on the outcome, the school’s name could remain Lee High School, or change to Riverside High School, Avondale High School, School Number 33 or Legacy High School.
Eligible voters can vote through May 7th.
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