Duke played an equally visible role in the Lee statue unveiling three years later. He served on the “Reunion Committee” of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter that helped choreograph the monument dedication. Throngs of attendees gathered on May 20 to hear speeches by various ceremonial “commanders,” such as W. McDonald Lee, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who described Union soldiers as “hired mercenaries” and proclaimed, “I believe them wrong today, sixty years after the war.”
Duke moved to center stage on May 21, “Robert E. Lee Day.” He participated in a massive procession that snaked its way through Charlottesville to the new Lee Park downtown. After “the multitude assembled about the statue,” Duke was the first man they heard from, as he assumed his role as the “presiding officer” of the day’s events, welcoming a series of speakers who made the case that Robert E. Lee, a “Victor over Defeat,” represented “the moral greatness of the Old South.”
In what the local paper called the “most dramatic moment” of the unveiling, Duke brought to center stage 3-year-old Mary Walker Lee, to pull the cord unveiling the monument; Duke introduced her, to the roar of the crowd, as “the great-granddaughter of the greatest man who ever lived.”8
Duke’s career not only reveals the racial animus at the heart of the Lost Cause creed, it also reflects UVA’s role in promulgating Lost Cause propaganda.