Some websites consider Richard Henry Lee a president of the United States. In fact, Lee was president of the Continental Congress and actually made the motion in Congress to declare independence from Great Britain. In other words, he was the man willing to literally stick his neck out in a body still unconvinced that open rebellion was prudent.
Lee signed the Declaration of Independence and was eventually elected a senator from Virginia.
Yesterday, on July 4, I visited the odd and charming grave of Lee, tucked away in a Westmoreland County, Virginia, cornfield. It isn’t easy to find. Nevertheless, I wasn’t the only visitor. Others had left wreaths and notes of thanks. A dirt road travels through the middle of a cornfield, a field that used to comprise his family estate Burnt Fields. Suddenly the corn gives way to a small circle with the Lee family plot enclosed by a brick wall.
Lee was a Southern gentleman farmer, which to people like Chris Rock means slaveholder. Of course wiser Americans know the principles in the Declaration were so transcendent that even though it might take two centuries to fully realize, the authors of that document were revolutionaries both philosophically and politically. The human experience is now better because of those men, for blacks and whites alike.