Peay’s Service at VMI Honored

by James A. Bacon

A  year and a half after he was forced into resigning amidst allegations of “relentless racism” at the institution he ran for 17 years, J.H. Binford Peay III, has been honored by the VMI Board of Visitors.

The board bestowed upon him the title of superintendent emeritus and ordered that a planned leadership building be named Peay Hall in his honor, and its dining room be named for his wife Pamela Peay. Further, General and Mrs. Peay will be honored at VMI’s Founders Day celebration Nov. 11. Superintendent Cedric T. Wins announced the recognitions at a class-of-1962 alumni reunion dinner April 26.

Stated the press release: “The Institute celebrated many successes during Peay’s 17 years as superintendent, including improved academic and co-curricular programs, major renovations of many buildings, and the construction of Third Barracks, Marshall Hall, and the Corps Physical Training Facility. During his tenure, the former superintendent was dedicated to an environment of excellence where cadets were provided countless opportunities to develop traits of successful leadership—honor, respect, civility, self-discipline, and professionalism.”

“He was a transformative leader,” says Carter Melton, who served on the VMI search committee that selected Peay. “He recreated VMI and led it into the 21st century. I think he might have been the finest superintendent VMI ever had.”

The Board’s recognition is significant, Melton says. VMI has named few, if any, buildings after living people. Melton can’t recall any previous superintendent being named superintendent emeritus. “It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a huge and significant honor, a heartfelt recognition of the VMI family’s admiration for Binnie and Pam Peay…. This is our statement to the world that you can’t take a man of this caliber and treat him as shamelessly as Northam treated him.”

VMI’s 17-person board is comprised entirely of members who were appointed or reappointed by Northam.

Peay faced a balancing act upholding the military academy’s hallowed traditions such as the adversarial, character-building Rat Line and the single-sanction honor code at a time when social attitudes towards the Civil War and Confederate heroes were rapidly changing. For years the Institute had venerated Stonewall Jackson, a VMI instructor who became one of the most accomplished battlefield commanders in U.S. history.

In the wake of the George Floyd protests, Peay was trying to recalibrate that balance. But The Washington Post ignited a firestorm with a series of articles portraying VMI as a cauldron of racism and sexism. The Post cited several instances of racism that occurred at VMI over several years but never demonstrated that the incidents were systemic or that the Peay administration had tolerated racism. Governor Ralph Northam, a VMI graduate who was seeking to redeem himself after his infamous blackface scandal, seized upon VMI as a way to restore his credibility with “progressive” and Black legislators who were key to his political survival. Denouncing the “clear and appalling culture of structural racism” based on the WaPo articles, he ordered an investigation into the military academy and conveyed his lack of confidence in Peay, after which the General resigned.

Wins, Peay’s successor, faces a similar balancing act. Wins has said he has seen no evidence of “systemic” racism at VMI, and he has pledged to uphold core VMI traditions such as the Rat Line and Honor Code. However, VMI has removed the Stonewall Jackson statue and expunged any references to him in public memorials. Meanwhile, Wins is implementing a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program that includes expanding DEI staff, providing DEI training to faculty and staff, and exposing cadets to DEI sessions in which participation is theoretically voluntary. Some VMI alumni charge that the DEI program is infused with Critical Race Theory (CRT) that will heighten racial identities in a way that is antithetical to VMI’s ideal based on character and service. VMI officials have adamantly denied that CRT plays any role at the institute.

One thing that both sides of the culture wars can agree upon, however, is that Peay’s legacy at VMI is worth honoring and preserving.

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15 responses to “Peay’s Service at VMI Honored”

  1. Greg Long Avatar
    Greg Long

    While deserving, this is a “hollow” honor that skirts giving Gen. Peay the New Market Medal he deserves. First, the designation of superintendent emeritus is a routine one that is traditionally bestowed on all previous VMI Superintendents relatively automatically.

    Second, the leader ship building is “to be planned” for which there is no final design and especially finding. It is not in the State budget at this point so is this just to gather more alumni $$ to pay for a building?

    FOR TRANSPARENCY, the VMI BOV should respond HERE and state clearly what the status is of the formal nomination of Gen. Peay for the New Market medal. The BOV formed a committee at their last BOV meeting. Their own rules states that they must put forward a recommendation at the next BOV meeting. That occurred at VMI over the last two days.

    SO VMI…. please clarify all of this and dispel the rumors.

    1. What was the recommendation of the committee on awarding Gen. Peay the New Market Medal?

    2. What was Maj. Gen. Win’s vote on the medal for Gen. Peay?

    That would go a long way to putting this particular issue to bed once and for all. Which s what the VMI community needs.

  2. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Day late and a dollar short…
    Feeling guilt?
    Where does he go to get his honor back?
    But better than I’ve seen from UVA BOV…

  3. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

    VMI is at the start of what looks like a massive publicity blitz.

    The most recent press release covers two items: (1) The VMI Class of 62’s Reunion and (2) the VMI Foundation’s Plans – with Gen. Peay at the heart of both.

    At the Reunion, Gen. Wins slobbered all over Gen. Peay. Gen. Peay seemed to enjoy it but, in his defense, what else could he do? He’s a good soldier.

    One does have to wonder, however, why ’62 gave Wins the platform to atone for his guilt in this despicable affair. Despite his denials, Wins was already standing by when the spineless BOV “asked” for Peay’s resignation.

    Remember, too, that Wins never once defended the Corps during, or in the immediate aftermath, of the “Report.” Wins did not defend the Corps from “systemic racism” until after Youngkin was elected governor. Anyone can easily see through the deception. Wins only recently came to the Corps’ defense. He left the Corps twisting in the wind for more than a year.

    The VMI Foundation’s plans are meant to atone for the terrible damage inflicted on Gen. Peay. There is nothing wrong with praise, and certainly Gen. Peay deserves a lot of praise, but this attempt to honor him this November is way too little and way too late. It’s actually embarrassing, and I don’t doubt that Gen. Peay thinks so, too.

    I have to ask, why is Gen. Peay participating in this lavish event? Many of the scoundrels that are planning the event engineered his downfall. By participating, Gen. Peay is forgiving them for conduct that is unforgivable. Every member of the BOV should have resigned when Northam asked his flunky to tell Gen. Peay that the “governor” had lost confidence in the general. Only two BOV members did.

    I am very sorry that Gen. Peay is allowing them to so easily get away with such appalling and cowardly behavior. But, by fully participating, that is exactly what he is doing.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “A year and a half after he was forced into resigning amidst allegations of “relentless racism” at the institution he ran for 17 years, J.H. Binford Peay III, has been honored by the VMI Board of Visitors.”

    Yosarrian’s medal. Or, a Lee statue, if you prefer.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      “Wins has said he has seen no evidence of “systemic” racism at VMI … ”

      I guess Ole Governor Blackface was wrong. And the Pajama Boy reporter at the Washington Post too.

      Do you still believe that Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation? Biden’s new head of the Ministry of Truth certainly thought so.

      Thank God Northam is gone.

  5. M. Purdy Avatar
    M. Purdy This was my response to Carter Melton over a year ago. It still stands today. Despite this biased post, VMI is still not a victim.

    1. Carter Melton Avatar
      Carter Melton

      you should consider taking a couple hours…go in the google post election crying room….and brush up on your reading skills

      1. M. Purdy Avatar
        M. Purdy

        Ironic that you think I need to brush up on my reading skills. There are some passages in the oped you should read again, perhaps more than once, and take to heart. Playing the victim is unbecoming for someone of your age and stature, Carter. Good day.

        1. Carmen Villani Jr Avatar
          Carmen Villani Jr

          Victimhood Michael? How about wrongfully charged? I read your letter. Contrary to what you stated, VMI did take action with regard to the Stonewall Jackson statue. That initial action/decision was to let it remain in place.

          What did the previous two Democrat Governors have to say about statue removal?

          Former Governor Terry McAuliffe (2015):
          “But not statues. I mean, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, these are all parts of our heritage,’ he added. ‘And the people that were in that battle, the Civil War, many of them were in it obviously for their own reasons that they had for that. But leave the statues and those things alone.’”

          Former Governor RN (2017):
          “While Northam said in August that he would be a ‘vocal advocate’ for relocating Confederate monuments to museums and do everything he can to remove statues at the state level, he has since softened his approach. Now he says he wouldn’t meddle with local decision-making. He touted the board of visitors at Virginia Military Institute, whose members he will appoint as governor, as an example of local decision-makers who grappled with a Confederate-era statue and chose to keep it up.”

          “TOUTED THE BOV FOR KEEPING THE STATUE UP.” Your letter also made mention of incidents occurring with regard to “racist incidents.” From the B&T report: “These documents (VMI’s) described 17 accounts between 2015 and 2021 where allegations that VMI concluded had a ‘racial component’ were made. Of those 17 accounts, 13 of the allegations were substantiated, while four lacked a preponderance of the evidence regarding the allegation…For the substantiated claims, VMI punished the cadets.”

          Finally, you speak of what other colleges and military branches are doing. You “Don’t Do Ordinary” by doing ordinary, not to mention your assumption that those are the correct actions to take.

          Carter Melton has served VMI with distinction. My suggestion to you is to learn from senior alumni, not criticize them.

          1. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            So “action” in your mind means no action at all? Nonsense. I note you added “decision,” because you know it’s not “action.” VMI didn’t even carry through with the limited contextualization they had talked about in 2017. They just did nothing and hoped it would all go away. As for the “no evidence” argument, it’s junk and you know it. There’s a mountain of it, some of it reported (as you yourself cited), the vast majority not. No one is lying about this, Carmen. Not me, not the people who talked to the Post, not the senior African American alums, not Gen. McDew. And that’s the great failure of your, the PAC’s, Carter’s and Bacon’s Rebellion’s argument. It depends entirely on hundreds of people lying, who as you well know, were trained not to as a matter of honor. As for Carter, I do respect his service and have had extremely respectful and thoughtful exchanges with him. Nevertheless, he has a victim complex and gave a quote to BR purporting to speak for the VMI family (he doesn’t) about political score settling. That’s not in VMI’s interest, and I will call it out. My oped stands.

          2. Carmen Villani Jr Avatar
            Carmen Villani Jr

            Interesting Michael. You make up your own definitions, mischaracterize, and unaware of what some VMI graduates have previously stated. You make mention of Major General McDew. Here is what he said about his VMI experience: “I would do it all over again in a minute, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Every brick wall I hit was worth it. But remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There are no barriers except the ones you put up for yourself.” (The Institute Report; June 2011)


          3. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            I don’t have to bend language to meet reality, Carmen. Action means to act, not to decide to do nothing. Gen. McDew ended up with four stars, BTW. Here’s what he told the Post in 2021. Both what you cited and what he told the Post can be true: He can love VMI and still think it has cultural aspects badly in need of reform. It’s really not that hard to grasp.

          4. Carmen Villani Jr Avatar
            Carmen Villani Jr

            Thanks for pointing out that General McDew is a retired 4 star general. At the time he made the comment I quoted, he was a 2 star.

            It’s fine Michael to have a discussion about changes that may be necessary to address “cultural” concerns, just don’t feed the narrative that VMI is structurally racist in the process.

            As to the definition of action, “a thing done; an act; the process of doing something.”

            “Virginia Military Institute’s superintendent announced this week that the school won’t remove Confederate statues nor rename any buildings named after Confederate leaders.”


            Making an announcement is an act or doing something. May not have been the action you were looking for Michael, but nonetheless, an action.

  6. Ruckweiler Avatar

    So Northam struck at GEN Peay to salvage himself with the usual suspects. Yet another sad commentary on Governor Blackface.

  7. sal vitale Avatar
    sal vitale

    He should be receiving The NEWMARKET MEDAL in addition to the one given. It is my view that since the medal has words in it that are not currently acceptable to the WOKE folks on the BOV , the medal will be withheld. to receive this award you have to be living. The building mentioned is NOT funded beyond a planning stage that was started when Gen Peay was superintendent.

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