General William C. Lee Statue, Dunn
The nine feet tall marble statue depicts Major General William C. (Bill) Lee who was the driving force behind creation of US Army airborne forces during World War Two. Lee is standing at attention wearing a garrison cap. The pants are tucked into his boots typical of airborne soldiers. The cap and shirt collar have two stars indicative of his rank as a major general. The statue stands on a double base of granite approximately five ft. tall.
Images: Statue in profile | Plaque | Statue in front of the William C. Lee Museum
WILLIAM C. LEE / MAJOR GENERAL, U.S. ARMY / “FATHER OF THE AIRBORNE” / 1985-1948 / COMMEMORATED BY THE CITY OF DUNN, N.C. / HIS BIRTHPLACE / A BICENTENNIAL SALUTE / JUNE 6, 1976
General William C. Lee Museum
June 6, 1976
35.307480 , -78.613960 View in Geobrowse
Adams, Hoover. “Thousands Gather in Dunn to Join Weekend Salute to General Bill Lee,” The Daily Record June 7, 1976, 1, 8
Curl, Rick. “Vandals Attack Gen. William C. Lee Statue,” The Daily Record (Dunn, NC), February 19, 2019 Link
General William C. Lee Airborne Museum Dunn, NC. http://generalleeairbornemuseum.org/, (accessed October 3, 2015) Link
Johnston, W. Lee. “Lee, William Carey,” NCPedia.org, (accessed September 28, 2015) Link
Price, Mark. "Vandals Tried to Burn a Confederate statue in NC – but It Was the Wrong General Lee,” Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC), February 20, 2019 Link
“General Lee Celebration Is Underway; Big Crowds Expected for Each Event,” The Daily Record (Dunn, NC) June 4, 1976, 1, 12
General Lee Memorial Commission: Abe Elmore, Robert Rupert, Randolf Doffermyre, Hoover Adams, Delmon Williamson, Cecil Edgerton
A three day celebration to the life and exploits of Dunn native William (Bill) Lee came to conclusion with the dedication of his statue on a Sunday afternoon, 32 years after the D-Day invasion of Europe. The events began at 1 o’clock with a jump by the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. A military parade followed at 3 o’clock and ended at Dunn’s city hall where the unveiling ceremony began at 3:30. Among the speakers for the day was US Senator Robert Morgan and retired four-star General Hugh P. Harris commander of the 7th Army during World War Two. “The program (Lee developed) culminated in a mighty invasion of fortress Europe – an accomplishment that had much to do with ultimate victory in World War Two,” Harris told those in attendance.
Escorted by Harris and Lt. General Emmerson from Ft. Bragg, Lee’s widow, Dava Johnson Lee unveiled the statue which had been covered appropriately by a parachute. As the statue appeared, the 82nd Airborne Division band began to play as the crowd cheered and applauded. It was reported that dozens of Army and Airforce generals from as far away as California were in attendance.
General Lee (12 Mar. 1895–25 June 1948) was the leading member of a small group of Army officers that developed American airborne force during the early days of American involvement in World War Two. Lee convinced senior military officers of the value of airborne divisions as specially trained and separately developed fighting units and was given command of the 101st Airborne Division at its creation in 1942. Unfortunately, Lee suffered a heart attack in February 1944 and was forced to retire which denied him the opportunity to lead the 101st into battle. His successor, General Maxwell Taylor, urged the men of the 101st to shout their founder's name as they jumped over Normandy. On the night of 5–6 June 1944, the name "Bill Lee" filled the sky behind Utah Beach as the men of his former command made their first jump into combat.
In February 2019 an attempt was made to set this statue on fire. Museum officials believe it happened because vandals confused it for a Confederate memorial. World War II General William Lee was not related to Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Many Confederate memorials were vandalized after the death of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 14, 2017 and after President Donald Trump expressed his opposition to the removal of Confederate memorials.
The statue stands to the right of the entrance to the William C. Lee Museum, at 209 W. Divine Street in Dunn, NC. The museum is located in the former residence of William Lee, in a well maintained residential area of Dunn.
The statue stands on the front lawn, surrounded by shrubbery.