By Zach Armstrong
PRINCE GEORGE, Va -- The Prince George Board of Supervisors took no action on a resolution at it’s Sept. 14 meeting that would support changing the name of Fort Lee to Fort Arthur J. Gregg after board members largely voiced opposition to the name change.
U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-4th District) assembled a zoom meeting of representatives from the localities in his district where he made it clear that Fort Lee would have its name changed due to a mandate from the federal government asking if the localities would consider a change to Fort Arthur J. Gregg.
Rep. McEachin wrote a letter to the chairperson of the Defense Department’s Naming Commission to make the name change. The commission was established to make decisions and accept information on the topic. Members of the commission have been at Fort Lee to have meetings.
Arthur J. Gregg began his 35-year military career at Fort Lee in 1946 and retired in 1981 as the highest-ranked minority general and second highest-ranked black service member at that time. A letter by Rep. McEachin stated that Gregg “broke down racial and institutional barriers.”
The board had the option to either sign on to the resolution saying they were in favor of the name change or take no action. The board doesn’t have the authority to change the name of the army base.
The board chose to take no action after the members mostly voiced clear opposition to the name change, even though the change will inevitably happen.
According to County Administrator Percy Ashcraft, the county ran an unofficial poll around a month ago that asked citizens for their input on the matter. The results showed that 86% of county residents wished that the name would stay the same.
“I’m going to agree with the 86%,” said District 2 Board member T.J. Webb. “I’m not in favor of renaming this fort or any fort, I do take exception to the fact that it's being pushed down without citizen input, I don’t condone it, they can force it do whatever they want but that doesn’t mean I have to recognize it,”
“It’s going to happen but I don’t have to like it,” said District 2 Supervisor Donald Hunter. “All my life I lived outside of Camp lee and Fort Lee, that’s where my parents met each other so I have a hard time accepting the fact it's not gonna be what I've known it as, so I can't say that I support it,”
“I think most people are familiar with the term Fort Lee and when you're familiar with something it's hard to think of it as another name,” said District 2 Supervisor Marlene Waymack. “That’s why our citizens feel this way because that's what they've always known, look at the way we’ve worked with fort lee and all the people that have worked there, it's not that we don't support the federal government, it's just we don't want to undertake the change unless we have to, but we have to,”
Chairman Floyd Brown did not voice any direct opposition to the name change of the army base but noted that the board members should be careful not to use certain language such as the measure was being “shoved down our throats” as to not rile citizens up over the matter.
Following congress’ override of Former President Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill, Fort Lee in addition to the Fort Pickett and Fort Hill military bases are set to get new names.
Under Section 370 of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Secretary of Defense shall implement a plan within three years that removes all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor the Confederacy.
The Fort Lee army base, located in Prince George County, is one of ten bases in the United States that is named after Confederate figures, naming itself after US Army Colonel and Confederate States General in Chief Robert E. Lee.