McEachin sends letter to Pentagon panel pushing Fort Lee to be renamed for retired general
Virginia congressman is joined by a House Democratic leader in advocacy for the name 'Fort Gregg' to be placed on the Prince George Army post
Rep. Donald McEachin has enlisted the help of one of the House Democratic leaders to rename Fort Lee for a retired officer who began his career at the Prince George post and rose to be one of the highest-ranked Black generals in recent Army history.
McEachin, D-Virginia, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, penned a letter to the chairperson of the Defense Department's Naming Commission to change Fort Lee to Fort Gregg in honor of former Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Gregg. Gregg began his 35-year career in 1946 at then-Camp Lee and retired in 1981 as the highest-ranked minority general and the second-highest ranked Black servicemember at that time.
In the letter dated Aug. 16, McEachin and Clyburn said Gregg "broke down racial and institutional barriers" during his career.
"Not only did he personally participate in the desegregation of the military, he also advocated for the recruitment and commissioning of underrepresented communities, including Black and minority servicemember," the letter read.
The letter stated that McEachin and Clyburn put together an informal committee of community leaders from McEachin's district to discuss the possibility of placing Gregg's name on the post. That panel, they wrote in the letter, agreed with the choice, saying that Fort Gregg "would meaningfully signify the commitment of our military to upholding the values of the nation."
Gregg spent his entire career in the Quartermaster and Logistics arenas. During the Vietnam War, he commanded the largest Quartermaster battalion in that country. He also served as director of logistics and organization for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired as the Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics.
Now 93, Gregg serves on several boards and commissions in the private sector. Last September, the Army Quartermaster Museum unveiled an exhibit spotlighting Gregg's career.
Last year, as part of the Defense Authorization budget bill, House and Senate Democrats inserted language calling on 10 military posts in the South named after Confederate generals to change their names within a three or risk losing federal funding. Then-President Donald Trump vetoed the bill, but that veto was easily overridden by the Democrat-controlled Congress.
McEachin, an early advocate for renaming Fort Lee after Gregg, and Clyburn noted in the letter how Gregg, a South Carolina native, began his military career "at a segregated base named after a man [Gen. Robert E. Lee] who betrayed the United States to maintain slavery and uphold institutional racism.
"By establishing Fort Gregg, the Army would not only honor a pioneer in military leadership and logistics, but also honor the legacy of all Black servicemembers who offered the best of themselves to a nation that did not always show them the same respect nor recognize their value," the congressmen wrote in their letter.
The Naming Commission, chaired by retired Admiral Michelle Howard, is currently developing the criteria it will follow in renaming the 10 posts, plus Fort Belvoir., according to a Defense Department website post. That includes "a meeting with local stakeholders to develop procedures and criteria to incorporate local opinions in regards to renaming assets, the Defense post read.
Final recommendations on the new names is expected in October 2022.
In addition to Forts Lee and Belvoir, other Virginia installations to be renamed are Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County and Fort Pickett in Nottoway County. A one-time Army post, Fort Pickett is now under the command of the Virginia National Guard.
Veteran journalist Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is the regional daily news coach for the USA TODAY Network Southeast Region's Unified Central group, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and portions of North Carolina. He is based at The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.