There is “no evidence” that a North Carolina pastor, who claimed to be a descendent of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and used his family heritage to speak out against statues honoring Confederate generals, is in any way related to the erstwhile military leader, according to the Washington Post’s fact-checker.
The Rev. Rob Lee, who spoke out against Confederate monuments across the south and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, when the embattled governor announced he was removing a monument to Robert E. Lee from a boulevard in Richmond, Virginia, “is not related to the general,” according to several outlets.
“The Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, known as Rob, has, since 2016, parlayed his ancestry on behalf of what many may regard as a noble cause — removing Confederate statues and memorials,” the Washington Post’s fact-checker noted over the weekend. “Rob Lee has made numerous public appearances, including on ‘The View’ and the MTV Video Music Awards. At a House committee hearing in 2020, he was introduced by then-Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as a ‘descendant of the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.’ In that hearing, he called himself a ‘nephew’ of the general.”
Following a review of genealogical records, the Post noted, assisted by experienced Civil War genealogists from California, researchers discovered “no evidence that Rob Lee, who was born in North Carolina, is related to Robert E. Lee.”
“On his website, Rob Lee describes himself as ‘a descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.’ At an appearance in Tulsa in 2020, he suggested that he was connected to Robert E. Lee because he is a direct descendant of Lee’s older brother, Charles Carter Lee,” the Post said. “So we looked for evidence that Rob is related to Charles Lee or any other brother of Robert E. Lee. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment — via email, text message, and Twitter — but his own writings are vague on the connection.”
“[W]hen we traced the genealogy, the trail quickly ran cold,” the outlet added. “None of the direct descendants of these Virginians led us to Rob Lee.” Lee’s family tree, it turns out, is one of the most well-documented of any American historical figure, and descendants of the Confederate general are remarkably easy to track.
It appears, instead, that the Rev. Lee is actually “related to a Confederate soldier named Robert S. Lee, who was from Alabama but has no ancestral ties to the Confederate general,” per an Alabama outlet.
The revelations triggered a number of corrections within the Washington Post archives, including on essays written by the Rev. Lee about Confederate statues. The Post, however, was reluctant to call Rev. Lee an intentional fabulist saying, instead, that Lee may have”
“firmly believed he was somehow related to Robert E. Lee, based on stories he heard at home about ‘Uncle Bob.’ Instead, he appears to be a descendant of Robert S. Lee, also known as ‘Uncle Bob,’ who served in the Confederate forces — but was not a general.”
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