In 1938, the ball’s patrons included Speaker of the House and Mrs. William Bankhead, Rep. and Mrs. Hamilton Fish, Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Rep. Sam Rayburn, Sen. and Mrs. Claude Pepper.
The Lee-Jackson Bay was dedicated in 1953, the year before the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Few, if any, more significant memorials to the Confederacy or its heroes were undertaken in Washington.
By the 1960s, Confederate Memorial Hall was losing its momentum, too. The pulse of social Washington beat elsewhere. It was becoming increasingly controversial, if not career-ending, for power-Washington figures to identify with the Confederacy.
The hall had a brief revival as a museum and library in the 1980s, displaying minor artifacts and artworks tied to the South. A nasty and protracted legal battle for control of the hall broke out between the president of the Confederate Memorial Association, John Edward Hurley, and representatives of sons and daughters chapters. When the place was finally sold in 1997 — to pay legal fees, Hurley said at the time — it was a wreck. (Hurley said he was unavailable to be interviewed for this story.)
While tributes to the Confederacy are scarce, Washington can be grateful for statues that did not get built, says Jane Freundel Levey, director of heritage programs at Cultural Tourism D.C. In 1923, Southern society ladies in town were raising money for a “Mammy” memorial statue, and the Senate passed a resolution in support. The proposed design showed an African American nanny holding a white baby while her own children compete for her attention.
Just outside the capital, of course, are a multitude of monuments to Confederate heroism — the statue of a Confederate cavalry private in Rockville; the statue of Lee erected by a neighbor of the Antietam battlefield; the Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria, where there also is a statue of a Confederate private.
The most important, with a direct connection to the federal capital, is the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. President Wilson unveiled the 32-foot-tall sculpture in 1914.
Each year on or near Davis’s birthday, June 3, sons and daughters groups hold memorial ceremonies at the monument.
Likewise, the local United Daughters division sponsors an annual commemoration before Lee’s statue in the Capitol on or near his birthday, January 19.
“You don’t want people telling you who you are, you want to know who you are, who went before you,” says Lloyce West, a past president of the Washington division of the United Daughters, who also is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “I think all of our ancestors need to have someone remembering them.”
Staff researchers Alice Crites and Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.