From left: Former Judge Rohulamin Quander; Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffery C. McKay; Col. Joseph V. Messina, Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander; Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck; and Command Sgt. Maj. Garth D. Newell joined to unveil the new sign that marks the corner of Parke Road and EO 9981 Road at a renaming ceremony on July 26.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of a presidential executive order prohibiting segregation in the military, Fort Belvoir held a ceremony this week to announce the renaming of Lee Road to EO 9981 Road.

Executive Order 9981, signed by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948, declared it essential that U.S. armed forces maintain the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve.

Lee Road’s name change came from a decision made by the congressional naming commission created in 2021 to study and make recommendations on renaming military assets with names linked to the Confederate Army in the Civil War.

The commission's focus throughout the summer and fall of 2021 consisted of nine Army installations named after those who served in the Confederacy. The commission later expanded its investigation to other military assets.

For Fort Belvoir, the commission recommended name changes for four roads on base. Lee Road, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, is the first to be changed. The others are Beauregard, Stuart and Johnston roads.

On Wednesday, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffery C. McKay, accompanied by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, presented a proclamation on the change and touted the county's One Fairfax equity initiative.

“This is where all my childhood memories are,” McKay said. “ But I gotta tell you, being here today for this particular event, is my proudest moment of coming to Fort Belvoir.”

One Fairfax is a racial and social equity policy under the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board. The 2016 resolution commits the county and schools to intentionally consider equity when making policies or delivering programs and services.

“We in Fairfax County believe very strongly that while we can’t change our history, we absolutely decide what in our history we want to celebrate and what in our history we want to learn and do better from. And clearly, names of streets were done in a celebratory fashion,” McKay said.

On July 5, Fairfax County formally changed the names of Lee Highway and Lee Jackson Memorial Highway to Route 29 and Route 50, respectively.

“It’s prominent in Fairfax County and the message that this says is that while the executive order may have been a while ago, vestiges of our past still exist and it’s up to us to change that and build a better trajectory, especially for our young people,” McKay said.

The ceremony, held at Woodlawn Chapel on base, featured retired D.C. Senior Administrative Law Judge Rohulamin Quander as a guest speaker. The Quander family’s history includes Mount Vernon plantation ancestors Sukey Bay, Nancy Carter Quander and West Ford, all enslaved to George Washington.

“Evaluating the Commission's full report and its findings and recommendations many American historians have noted that perhaps white America's first true awareness of the necessity of desegregating was, unfortunately, not fully understood, until President Truman issued an edict demanding the end of military racial segregation,” Quander said. “By preventing entire groups from making their maximum contribution to the national defense, we weakened our total defense by imposing heavier burdens on the remainder of the population.”

To conclude the ceremony Quander, McKay, Stork, Command Sgt. Maj. Garth D. Newell and Col. Joseph V. Messina, the installation’s commander, joined to unveil the new sign that marks the corner of Parke Road and EO 9981 Road.

Story, photos by Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa