Robert E. Lee’s Birthday at the Confederate Memorial Chapel

As many of you know, January 19 was Robert E. Lee’s birthday. As it fell on a Sunday, you might well expect people to commemorate the event in proper fashion, and pay their respects to the most iconic figure of Confederate heritage.

For some other folks, however, it appears to have been just another day to stage a confrontation on video, complete with threats of lawsuits, so that they could post it on You Tube as soon as possible.

You guessed it … it’s Tripp Lewis, who in the absence of Susan Hathaway is now the most visible face of the Virginia Flaggers outside the chapel.

We hear a lot about threatened lawsuits, but as yet I’ve seen no record of one. Maybe the Flaggers are keeping it a secret. Maybe the Tripp Lewis Defense Fund needs replenishing. Hey … if Tripp wins everything the officer has, will he distribute the proceeds among his investors … ah … contributors and supporters? Seems to me they should be in for a cut of the proceeds.

I’m sure General Lee would have thought this was just the way he’d like his birthday celebrated.

Kevin Levin, who brought this video to my attention, offers his own take at Civil War Memory.

Note that the rest of the color guard was permitted inside of the chapel. Indeed, there’s no evidence that Norwood (Tripp’s real first name) was part of this group, which has performed at functions elsewhere.

Now, some words of advice for the Flaggers:

First, learn how to spell Pelham. Here’s how the title of the You Tube video is rendered:

Spelling the VF Way

The same spelling is on the video itself, so it’s no mistake.

You would think that after years out walking the sidewalks by the building that you would know how to spell the name of a Confederate hero, but you don’t. Thank goodness Robert E. Lee is so simple to spell, although one day a Flagger may render it as Robert E. Lea.

Second, you might want to figure out how to hold your cell phone video cameras the right way so that we can see the events in the letterbox format that offers such a dramatic punch. Indeed, I don’t know why the defense fund does not invest in better video equipment. Maybe you want to make Tripp look taller.

Third, if you are going to pursue legal recourse against various people, then do so. Show us the evidence of filings. Folks are beginning to talk that this is nothing more than a sham protest designed to call attention to Tripp Lewis. Prove them wrong … or prove them right, I guess.

Fourth, vary your approach. You can’t afford to get boring, and these Lewis confrontations are starting to look all the same.

That said, at least Tripp is better at these sort of things than other folks. Not much action here, and rather poor video (with the camera held the wrong way):

Meanwhile, I guess we now have a strong contender for the 2014 edition of Confederate Heritage Follies.

PS: You may post this, David Grove.

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13 thoughts on “Robert E. Lee’s Birthday at the Confederate Memorial Chapel

  1. Bit of confusion here. Was Mr. Lewis actually supposed to be part of the color guard, but was barred because he is who he is? Or was he just saying that in order to get on the property with a flag?

    • It’s not clear. What we know is that the color guard went in the chapel sans Mr. Lewis without an issue, according to the video. The problem seems to be Mr. Lewis. The folks in blue know him quite well, or so it appears.

    • When Lewis was arrested last year, the specific charge was a Class 1 misdemeanor, “trespass after having been forbidden to do so” (Code of Virginia § 18.2-119). So he had specifically been barred from the property prior to that time. The exact circumstances of that are unknown, although I’m sure they’re detailed in the filings for Lewis’ case, which he’s never released. He and the Flaggers prefer to insist that it was persecution for carrying a Confederate flag or honoring his ancestors or some such, but the other members of the color guard entering the chapel pretty much disproves that — this is something specific to Lewis and his past actions. Given that Lewis has recently been under suspension from his membership in the Virginia Division of the SCV “for commission of an act repugnant” to that organization, it’s not hard to imagine that he has given the VFMA ample reason to bar him from the grounds.

      But Lewis is in a tight spot these days. He reportedly collected over $6,000 from his supporters to fund his defense on the trespassing charge, with the expectation of a courtroom showdown that would vindicate his protest and, by extension, that of the Flaggers. Instead Lewis cut a deal that would allow him to do community service and added a few more restrictions on his protesting, while allowing the trespassing charge eventually to be expunged from his record. It’s a great outcome for him personally, but leaves the Flaggers exactly where they were before.

      Ever since he’s been popping off about a civil suit against the VMFA and the City of Richmond, but a year on he has yet to file one. My own view is that any competent attorney who’s reviewed the record (and the Flaggers’ own video of the event) has told him he’s got no case. That, I suspect, is part of the reason he continues to push confrontations like one last weekend; he’s looking for a response that will actually give some substance to his lawsuit.

      We’ll just have to wait and see if he ever gets around to filing that lawsuit. In the meantime, though, I suspect his donors may be privately wondering what good their money did for the promotion of Confederate heritage and the return of flags to the chapel at VMFA. So far the answer is, “not much.”

  2. I find it interesting that in all of these videos, the flags in question were not hung from proper flag poles, but rather something akin to dowel rods, and the Virginia flag in the last video was tacked to a tree limb. It doesn’t seem to me to be the proper way to display, honor and respect a flag (not to mention their ancestors) in the 21st century. I’m guessing the reason that no one has brought a lawsuit is because they can’t even afford proper flag poles, let alone lawyers.

    • “I’m guessing the reason that no one has brought a lawsuit is because they can’t even afford proper flag poles, let alone lawyers.”

      There’s nothing they can actually sue over. The local SCV camp signed a five-year lease on the chapel that explicitly bars Confederate flags from the exterior of the chapel. The SCV camp didn’t like it, but they signed anyway, and now they have a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

      What’s amazing to me is that, when the lease comes up for renewal next year, the Flaggers seem to think their antics — which have included “flagging” the museum director’s home and heaping all sorts of abuse on the museum’s board — is going to result in the museum being more conciliatory to them in 2015. That’s lunacy.

  3. Tripp Lewis ate too much lead paint chips as a kid. He is his own worst enemy and I hope his kids aren’t following in his footsteps. Poor parenting personified here folks. Way to promote ignorance, civil disobedience, and racism all at once. Well done Flaggers. You should be so proud. (NOT!)

  4. I don’t know for sure, but I have the impression that Norwood has been banned from the property. Perhaps someone can check on this. He doesn’t belong with a color guard anyway, since he has no conception of how to behave. Hint #1, you don’t wear sunglasses in formation if you want to be historically accurate. But then, nobody’s ever accused Norwood of being accurate in any way.

  5. I believe, (from what I was told when I visited VMFA in Sept) along with Norwood being banned from the property, there is either a city code or Federal code that does not allow flags carried onto the VMFA property. Notice the officer said something about “code”. Also, notice how Tripp goes to the edge of the sidewalk- the sidewalk is not included in the code.

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