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Kaine: Shenandoah County ‘chose to honor people who aren’t worthy of it’

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(© George Sheldon – Shutterstock)

Tim Kaine is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate this year. Pay attention to his numbers in Shenandoah County, which just reinstated the names of three of the original insurrectionists to two county schools, a move that the senator blasted last week.

“There’s a difference between telling history and honoring people. When you’re naming a school after a Confederate general, you’re not just telling history, you’re deciding that they’re worthy of honor,” Kaine said on a conference call with reporters.

The Shenandoah County School Board voted 5-1 on May 10 to restore the names of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby to two county schools, reversing a move that had been made by a previously elected school board in 2020.

The background to all of this begins when Shenandoah County first put the name of Stonewall Jackson on its new, at the time still all-white high school way back in 1959, nearly a century after the Civil War, but just five years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of school desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education.

The legacy of the Confederacy enjoyed quite the resurgence in interest post-Brown v. Board in the South, and in particular in Virginia, where the strategy of massive resistance was birthed in 1956, as the Byrd machine led the political fight against desegregation.

Stonewall Jackson had no prior ties to Shenandoah County – Jackson is a native of Clarksburg, 162 miles west of Mount Jackson, where the high school is located – the town was named not for Stonewall, but for Andrew.

Ashby Lee Elementary School, which was built in 1975, didn’t get its names directly from either Turner Ashby or Robert E. Lee, but rather from the names of magisterial districts that were in place in the county at the time, and have since been retired – the county now just uses numbers to delineate its six magisterial districts.

So, the Ashby and Lee magisterial districts no longer exist, Stonewall Jackson has nothing to do with Shenandoah County, and only got his name on the high school there because the white majority wanted to show where it stood on school desegregation, what’s all the hubbub, right?

“The group that urged them to make the name change talked about these Confederate generals as heroes. They weren’t heroes,” Kaine said. “They fought for a cause, and the cause was pretty clear, and it was to, we would rather divide this nation, this great nation, we are ready to divide it so that we can continue to hold fellow human beings as slaves and deprive them of equality that they should be given because they’re created equal to all of us.

“Sometimes you hear the argument made, no, you shouldn’t rewrite history. I agree we shouldn’t rewrite history. We should tell it. But history is different than deciding who to honor. And in my opinion, the school board in Shenandoah County chose to honor people who aren’t worthy of it,” Kaine said.

Kaine won his 2018 re-election with 57.0 percent of the vote statewide, but in Shenandoah County, Corey Stewart, a vocal defender of Confederate monuments who, in the aftermath of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that led to the deaths of three people, blamed “half the violence” of that day on “far-left nutcases,” won handily, with 65.7 percent of the vote.

They like their Lost Cause there in Shenandoah County, is the point.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].