WATCH: 1960 Robert E. Lee grad explains why name of alma mater should be changed

He’s been urging his classmates to sign a letter asking the Tyler ISD school board to vote to change the name of the school.
Updated: Jul. 16, 2020 at 3:02 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) -Bill Thomson, Ph.D., is a graduate of Robert E Lee High School, the class of 1960.

Thompson joins East Texas Now to explain why he’s been urging his classmates to sign a letter asking the Tyler ISD school board to vote to change the name of the school.

An Open Letter to the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees

July 2, 2020

Dear Board Members:

We, the undersigned, believe it is time to change the name of Lee High School.  When it was originally named, it was a different time, and we did not think much about the significance of the name of the school. It was segregated, and we had limited awareness of racial issues at that time.  We were teenagers, focused on ourselves, and inexperienced.  Since that time and especially in recent months, our eyes have been opened to the wide disparity of justice in our country.  This not only affects Blacks, but Hispanics, LGBTQ, religious minorities, women, and other groups.

We are not historical revisionists and believe the history of our country, good or bad, needs to be documented and remembered.  However, symbols of racial injustice should not be revered and glorified.  Slavery, white supremacy, and prejudice are all implied in these Confederate reminders.  There are many memorials around the world (Holocaust museums, WW II memorials, 9-11 monuments), that remind us not to forget the lessons we have learned about the dark periods of our history, and to never let these things happen again.  However, they are not intended, unlike many Confederate symbols, to glorify these events.

In our increasingly diverse culture, with the spotlight on the history of racism in America, we can understand why a Black-American student, such as Trude Lamb, would refuse to wear the name on her track jersey of a Confederate General who owned slaves. We applaud her action.  Black-American students should not have to attend a school whose name symbolizes oppression and slavery.  If Nazi Germany had won the war, we doubt any of us would like to attend “Hitler High School”.  

The point is:  we are in a different time now than when the school was originally named, and we need to be on the right side of history.  To name a school after a man who led a battle to divide our nation and maintain slavery is not appropriate. Let’s take what may be a difficult step for some, but a necessary forward step for others and change the name.


Members of the REL Class of 1960

The TISD school board is voting on the decision Thursday night to adjust the names of Robert E. Lee High School and John Tyler High School.

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