“Plaintiff Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV (“Lee”) is a white resident of Iredell County. Lee is the fourth great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.”
— Statement in a lawsuit seeking removal of a Confederate statue, filed in Iredell County, N.C., May 5
“As a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s family, I have borne the weight and responsibility of that lineage.”
— Lee, in an opinion article published in The Washington Post, June 7, 2020
“We’ve been talking about his great-great-grandfather.”
— Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), introducing Lee during a speech in Richmond, June 4
The Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, known as Rob, has, since 2016, parlayed his ancestry on behalf of what many may regard as a noble cause — removing Confederate statues and memorials. The pastor stood with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam when the governor announced last June, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, that a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond would be removed.
“There are members in my family who are shaking in their boots. I’m sure my ancestor Robert E. Lee is rolling in his grave, and I say, let him roll,” Lee told a crowd.
When Northam introduced Lee, he said: “We’ve been talking about his great-great-grandfather.”
This is a common mistake. Lee says he is the great-great-great-great nephew of the famous general.
There is a Robert E. Lee V, great-great-grandson of the general, who works at the Potomac School in McLean. He speaks rarely about the debate over historical monuments. Meanwhile, Rob Lee has made numerous public appearances, including on “The View” and the MTV Video Music Awards. At a House committee hearing in 2020, he was introduced by then-Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as a “descendant of the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.” In that hearing, he called himself a “nephew” of the general.
But there is no evidence that Rob Lee, who was born in North Carolina, is related to Robert E. Lee, according to The Fact Checker’s review of historical and genealogical records. We were aided in our search through these records by a retired Los Angeles trial lawyer and Civil War chronicler named Joseph Ryan, as well as an official at Stratford Hall, the ancestral home of the Virginia Lee family.