Lee honored as leader in civilian, military duties
Robert E. Lee has always been considered a military genius who led a disciplined army, but few are aware of how he also made his civilian "troops" toe the line after the Civil War ended.
One example was the time a student at Washington College stood before him with a chaw of tobacco in his mouth and was informed by Lee, the college's president, that he found it obnoxious. Told to leave the room and not to come back the same way, the student did an about-face, went into the hallway and then returned with the same chaw in his jaw. As soon as Lee saw the bulge in the student's mouth, he wrote an expulsion notice, informing his classmates that he was being bounced out of college "for disrespect to the president."
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Judge James Main discovered that interesting tidbit during research for his address Tuesday at the First White House of the Confederacy, where Lee was honored on the 203rd anniversary of his birth.
"Discipline, respect for authority and duty were required of all students and one of the most terrifying experiences for a student was to be called to the president's office," Main said.
Lee lived five years after the end of America's bloodiest war and he packed a lot into them as he took the helm of a college that would add his name to that of the country's first president.
When Lee became president of Washington College, Main said the school had only 40 students. During Lee's first year, enrollment jumped to 300 and the college received more than $100,000 from tuition and gifts -- an enormous sum in those days.
It was a word-of-mouth educational resuscitation and was based primarily on the leadership of a man whose military accomplishments are studied around the world 140 years after his death.
"Lee's commitment to his post-war career continued to deepen as he successfully developed the college's new curriculum and physical facilities," said Main, who spoke near the stairs leading to the second floor of the building. "He enjoyed his work and his civilian life."
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