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Executive order that integrated U.S. military inspires Fort Belvoir road’s new name

New street sign for EO 9981 Road (courtesy Paul Lara/USAG Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office)

Fort Belvoir’s Lee Road is officially being renamed EO 9981 Road in a ceremony this morning (Wednesday).

The name change comes as a result of a 2022 recommendation made by the Congress-backed Naming Commission tasked with coming up with a plan to remove names, symbols, displays, and monuments that honor the Confederacy from all “Army assets.” That includes bases and roads.

Lee Road in Fort Belvoir, a U.S. Army installation, is named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. But that will officially change when the road gets renamed after Executive Order 9981.

The order integrated the armed services and was signed into law by President Truman on July 26, 1948 — exactly 75 years ago to the day.

“The impact of EO 9981 cannot be overstated,” Fort Belvoir spokesperson Paul Lara told FFXnow. “By removing barriers based on race and fostering a merit-based system, it opened doors for countless men and women, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, to serve their country with dignity, honor, and equal opportunities. It set a powerful precedent for future civil rights advancements within the United States and inspired similar reforms in other sectors of society.”

The public ceremony will start at 10 a.m. today at Woodlawn Chapel (6050 Gorgas Road). Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will present a proclamation recognizing EO 9981 to Col. Joseph Messina, who commands Fort Belvoir.

The ceremony will also include remarks from author and retired judge Rohulamin Quander, who is a descendant of enslaved servants under George Washington. The event will conclude with the unveiling of the new sign and refreshments.

While the recent effort to rename nine Army bases has gotten most of the attention, roads and buildings are also part of the directive. In the instance of Lee Road, Lara says the decision on the new name was left to Fort Belvoir leadership.

Leadership went with EO 9981 Road because of the order’s significance and because a concept was preferable to a person or place, which would have required significantly more vetting and approvals from the Secretary of the Army, Lara said. A concept, though, allows the renaming to happen quicker.

This won’t be the only Fort Belvoir road that will be renamed. Beauregard Road, Stuart Road, and Johnston Road are also slated for a change, per Lara.

“The possible names are still being decided, but we wanted to act on the 75th anniversary of the Executive Order for this first rededication,” Lara said.

As for Fort Belvoir itself, that name looks to be sticking around, despite ties to the plantation that once stood on the property and its history as the site of Confederate Memorial Day celebrations.

In a final report released last year, the Defense Department Naming Commission noted that it didn’t have the authority to move forward on the renaming of Fort Belvoir, but a change was recommended.

However, the Fairfax County History Commission expressed concerns with the report, citing a lack of transparency, potential historical inaccuracies, and the impact a change might have on telling the stories of enslaved people who lived on the plantation.

Lara confirmed there are “no current plans” at this time to rename Fort Belvoir.