Confederate colonel’s fame shrinks even further

“Question: Conspicuously missing from the corner of Tunnel Road and Chunns Cove Road [in Asheville] is a state highway historical marker titled,  ‘Lee’s School, 1846-1879.’ The silver and black aluminum sign commemorated a school for boys conducted by Stephen Lee, a West Point graduate and Confederate colonel….  Has it been removed for maintenance, replacement or retirement?

“Answer: First of all, the information on the sign was incorrect.

” ‘I got a message from somebody up that way saying Stephen Lee did not graduate from West Point, so that makes one line out of four or five on the sign incorrect,’ said Ansley Herring Wegner, administrator of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program. ‘And sure enough, he was right. He entered the U.S. Military Academy, where he remained for two years, but he resigned’….

“If something simple is incorrect, like a date, that can be fixed with a kit that cost about $100. But in the Lee case, an entire new sign would cost $1,700.

” ‘The [marker review] committee said this guy just doesn’t qualify for a marker,’ Wegner said. ‘This marker came to be in 1951. Back in that day, less research went into the markers. The process for approving markers was not as rigorous….’

“Lee’s failure to graduate West Point was not the disqualifying factor, Wegner said. While locally important, Lee did not have accomplishments of statewide significance, and his military service was relatively short.

” ‘He ran a school, and he was in the Confederate Army for a very short time — less than a year,’ Wegner said, noting that even some generals or military heroes in North Carolina do not have markers. ‘Basically, as a package, the committee didn’t want to spend $1,700 to put up marker for someone who would not qualify for a marker today.’ ”

— From “Confederate marker to go down forever?”  in John Boyle’s Answer Man column in the Asheville Citizen-Times (Aug. 2)