Philanthropist James Dooley Soon to Be Canceled by VCU

The Dooley Hospital for Infectious Diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University no longer stands. But the portico/entrance of the original building has been retained as a free-standing memorial on VCU’s medical campus. The name of the Dooley Hospital is etched in limestone.

The Virginia Commonwealth University’s Committee on Commemoration and Memorials has targeted the Dooley Hospital name for the memory-hole treatment. A wealthy Richmond businessman by the name of James H. Dooley donated the funds during the Influenza epidemic of 1919 for the construction of the hospital. The son of an Irish immigrant, Dooley contributed to the rebirth of Richmond after the Civil War through his investments in real estate and railroads. He was a leading philanthropist, he supported the arts, and he advocated universal public education — which made him pretty progressive for his era. He and his wife also left bequests to establish the Richmond Public Library, St. Joseph’s Villa, and the Crippled Children’s Hospital. Their mansion and grounds, Maymount, is open to the public today as a popular family destination.

Dooley’s unpardonable sin? He enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private. He was wounded, taken prisoner, released in a prisoner exchange, and discharged due to his disability.

Unlike the Richmond statues to Lee, Jackson and Stuart, the memorial to Dooley glorified not his service to the Confederacy but his benefaction to the community. The naming of the hospital was not connected in any way to the Lost Cause narrative, the imposition of the Jim Crow regime, or massive resistance to desegregation, the usual explanations for taking down the Monument Avenue statues or other emblems of the Confederacy.

The VCU committee recommends “de-commemoration and removal of the name and all associated mentions and references to the Dooley Hospital.” On what grounds? “Dooley served in the confederate army.”

Likewise, the committee recommends erasing any mention of Simon Baruch, Lewis Ginter, and Fitzhugh Lee, all of whom served in the Confederate Army. (The statue of Fitzhugh Lee statue, who happened to serve as Virginia’s 40th governor, has been removed already.)

The obliteration of memorials to an entire generation of Richmond philanthropists is a purging of the past reminiscent of the Jacobins, Bolsheviks and Taliban. If VCU follows through on the committee’s recommendations to erase the names of the men who did so much to build the institution, it will be to the university’s ever-lasting shame.


Update: I have amended this post to correct a mis-statement that Fitzhugh Lee did not serve in the Confederate Army.

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21 responses to “Philanthropist James Dooley Soon to Be Canceled by VCU

  1. Are they going to give back the Dooley money?

    I thought not.

    I used to have a high opinion of VCU.

  2. You have to wonder?

  3. Dooley also built a little shack up on the Blue Ridge near Afton Gap, Swannanoa, which is still very much worth a visit. Hey, he made a fortune after his time in service to the Racist Confederation so he must have exploited somebody to get all that filthy lucre. Right? Can’t be done any other way! Also he is of European ancestry, and to some that alone is enough to justify cancellation. No greater white privilege than to be Irish in 19th Century America (actually, not what my Irish grandmother would say.)

    Now as to Fitzhugh Lee, who told you he didn’t fight for the CSA? Yep, he sure did. And not as a private :).

    • Well, if it hadn’t been for Grayson, he’d have been in Tennessee… or was that some relation?

      My god, when will it stop? Clearly, his was a case of youthful indiscretions.

      “he must have exploited somebody to get all that filthy lucre”
      Well, he was a lawyer. What do you think?

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I would equate Dooley with James Buchannan Duke of NC. Both men were father figures of the “New South” bringing industry, jobs, and wealth back to the south. You probably know of Duke, who pioneered the cigarette business, established Duke Power, and built Duke University.

      I can’t think of anyone in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia who gave more money to great causes that served the people for generations. He built the great railroads of Southside Virginia and tapped into a vast region of resources that led to great prosperity in a land that was once so isolated. While Swannanoa is an architectural gem, Maymont is a Richmond tradition that endures to this day. Millions of dollars given to hospitals, libraries, and orphanages. Some of that wealth is still giving to this day.

    • McKinley also recruited Fitzhugh Lee and some other former Confederates to serve in the U.S. Army to fight with the Cubans against the Spanish. Should correctness allow display of his boots but no more?

  4. All of this “De-nazification” of the lost cause is what SHOULD have been done…. in 1865-1885. But it wasn’t done.

    The glorification of a treasonous rebellion came at the end of reconstruction and in 1919, and other points along the way up until as recently as the 1980s.

    But, its where we are. If you wait this long, having glorified all the participants in the treasonous rebellion, people are over-reacting now, in this moment of extreme retrubution, and responding accordingly. The question of “how far will this go?” is not an unreasonable one.

    I doubt privates in the German WWII Army that were not members of the Nazi party and who returned alive and went on to great things in Germany (maybe even having statues erected and buildings named after them) are having those removed now.

    Purging any and all symbols of perceived racism and white supremacy will not eliminate racism and belief in white supremacy – those beliefs live in the hearts of men and women and non-binary, non-cis humans. Addressing the legal structures and barriers (and some symbols) of the vestiges of that system is the best institutions can do.

    Having conversations about these distinctions is the challenge now, while institutions are scrambling to keep from being “Cancelled.”

  5. How does this erasure of historical landmarks (and Dooley’s is truly innocuous) differ fundamentally from the “memory hole” of 1984? Erasing memory of the past makes it easier for the current generation of “controllers” to construct a reality that they want, not the one that exists. Considering the amount of information retained about each one of us and the rapid shift in “contemporary standards”, which one of us will be immune to “erasure” in the future. For instance if you are merely non-racist rather than antiracist, will your life story (no matter what good you might have done) be a sufficient cause for removing all record of your existence? Right now we are going through an orgy of historical presentism led my historically ignorant, self righteous ideologues.

    • Presentism is all the rage, I can’t wait till this century is viewed in such a manner.

    • You mean like Bush43 describing Butler’s withdrawal from Iraq as “being kicked out by Saddam”? 1984? Butler left less than 5 years before Bush mischaracterized the departure as anything less than voluntary.

      There is a video showing all the major talking heads reporting on Bulter’s leaving, followed by them towing (toeing) the line to bang the war drums.

      The memory hole is constant.

  6. Until recently, respectable historians disparaged presentism as a substandard way of studying and understanding history. My history professors (albeit many decades ago) took the position that presentism was a mark of historical ignorance, lazy intellect and willfully blind self-righteousness.

    • I concur with your professors statement and am truly saddened by what we are seeing currently.

      No doubt they knowtowed to escape their own canceling.

      • One of the dangers of historical presentism is that it gives the modern person an unrealistic sense of his own state as a human being. It is easy to to hold people in the past to our standard of “sinless perfection” which particularly the left believes that it has achieved. No credit is given to the fact that we have the benefit of 150 years of history (in the case of the Civil War ere) which our ancestors did not have available to form their world views and sentiments. Talk about hubris.

        The danger, whether it manifests on the part of conservatives or leftists, is an extreme self righteousness and lack of empathy and grace toward ordinary people who have failed to ascend to the peak of our imaginary “moral Mount Olympus”. Ideological supremacy is a source of all kinds of violence and other evils.

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Fitz Lee was a key figure in JEB Stuart’s cavalry command. He rose up from the rank of Colonel, commanded a brigade of Stuart’s finest cavalry as a Brigadier General, and actually achieved a break thru and escape at Appomattox on the day of the surrender. By the end of the war Fitz Lee ably led the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. While he never filled Stuart’s boots Fitz did earn his share of military achievements. I will say he had an embarrassing time at Five Forks. Instead of keeping a close eye on Sheridan he was off to Shad Bake (another old time Va tradition) with George Pickett. The disaster at Five Forks hastened the fall of Richmond and Petersburg and the road to Appomattox began. Fitz not only served as Governor of Virginia, but also as US Consul in Havana, commanded the 7th Corps in the Spanish American War, and retired in 1901 with the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army. Fitz was a leader in the reconciliation period between the North and South. His family roots are steeped in the aristocracy of Old Virginia. He is buried within a stone’s throw of Jefferson Davis and Lewis Ginter at Hollywood Cemetery.

  8. Well… this is truly embarrassing… it looks like the inmates HAVE taken over the asylum….and yes I know that can be taken different ways…

    Apparently the anger runs deep..on those who feel they have been aggrieved by the Civil War.

    the scales have tipped… we need to get back to the middle.

  9. Yep, this is too far. It’s a darn shame that so many Confederate monuments were built after 1900 when the intent is now considered to support white supremacy. It’s a shame that we’ve refused to do reasonable things earlier in history – and are thus now being pushed too far.

    I fear the same will ultimately happen in relation to women and history. Va does a better job than DC now that several new monuments have been added and we’ve agreed to support the ERA. Until the predominant leadership of everything ceases to be so predictably white male, and there is true opportunity for all – no matter what race, gender, etc. – there are going to be struggles. The longer we wait to make things fair, the harder the adjustments will be to make. Waiting for things to boil over like the current Black Lives Matter campaign – so many years after the direct struggles of the 60’s where the same things were being fought – just creates havoc and anger and hatred. We need to be proactive.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Monuments to units and leaders of the Confederate and Federal armies were built in the same period 1870-1930. They just wanted to be remembered. Both sides. No place gives better evidence of this than Winchester, Va. Stonewall Confederate Cemetery is adjacent to the Winchester National Cemetery. Both are filled to the gills with monuments erected by veterans and state governments. I saw them yesterday. I saw nothing in those monuments from both sides that supports anything more than wanting to be remembered.

  10. “Monuments to units and leaders of the Confederate and Federal armies were built in the same period 1870-1930. They just wanted to be remembered. Both sides.”

    Yes, exactly. While there was a Jim Crow racist component to this monument building, the primary over riding emotional driver was the most natural in the world for human beings of all kinds and sorts, unimaginable grief and despair of the survivors for their loss of most everything in a civil war of 4 years of invasion and counter invasion, all its distruction, the death and maiming of these survivor’s fathers, grandfathers, sons, and brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts, the need of the survivors to grieve those horrible loses and overcome them.

    Thus, think of the great public outpouring of emotion recently over the deaths of the WW2 generation, and magnify it by say 5o times over by reason of this earlier war being a civil war taking 1. 5 million war causalities out of a total population of 27.5 million US population. Add to that the trauma of a war devastated land – north, east, west, and south – over much of the nation. To forget that horrible war, to erase its memory, all that pain, suffering, and sacrifice by so many caught up in it would have been obscene, a blasphemy back then, just like what is going today is obscene. Incredible, we can’t do today, what Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, and Martin Luther King dreamed for, to forgive, and heal up the nations wounds, and honor the dead. It’s obscene, what we are doing.

  11. Hell, Obama’s mother is descended from slaveholders – the Maryland Duvall Family, founded by Mareen “the Emigrant” Duvall. Are there special rules?

  12. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Robert E. Lee cancelled again. This time in the house chamber at the state capitol. Busts of Jackson, Stuart, and Davis are gone. There are so many heads in the capitol, so many paintings, almost none will survive the cultural revolution. I say abandon the Richmond state capitol building and turn into a museum. Relocate the new capitol to Northern Virginia.

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