The call to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee and to rename the park where it resides has also raised questions about the man who donated them to the city and the time in which he lived.
Paul Goodloe McIntire’s gift of the Lee statue came in 1924, a time when Ku Klux Klan membership was at its peak, says Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. It was a time when “it was plausible to believe that the values and core beliefs of those in positions of leadership differed from the current leadership,” and he says some residents see the statue as a “psychological tool to show dominance of the majority over the minority” during that time.
Whether that was McIntire’s intention is not found in the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society files, although he did invite the Confederate Veterans, Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy to plan the statue’s unveiling.
What is well-documented is that aside from Thomas Jefferson and his university, McIntire is the biggest benefactor this city has ever known. McIntire Park, McIntire School of Commerce and McIntire Amphitheatre at UVA—those are just the tip of his donation iceberg. He gave the city its first library, now the home of the historical society, and its first park—the now controversially named Lee Park.
One of the four parks he donated to the city was Washington Park, named for Booker T. Washington, “for use as a playground for the colored citizens of Charlottesville,” according to the 1926 deed.
At the same time, he donated 92 acres for McIntire Park, which was for whites only, and a newspaper headline read, “One for White and One for Colored,” suggesting that McIntire was attempting to strike some sort of balance, according to “The History of Washington Park” on the city’s website.
McIntire’s own history is entwined with Charlottesville’s. Born in 1860, he grew up in a house on East High Street where the now-chopped-down Tarleton oak grew. His father, George Malcolm McIntire, was the mayor who surrendered the city to General George Custer’s approaching Union troops, and some have speculated that his son’s gift of Lee Park in honor of his parents was to help assuage that painful memory.
The young McIntire studied for one session at the University of Virginia, and left because “he had to make a living,” according to a document from Albemarle County Schools’ Paul McIntire Day in 1942.
After a two-year stint working at the C&O Railway station, young McIntire headed to Chicago to work for a coffee and tea company. While there, he began to study and invest in the stock market, for which he apparently had a knack. He held seats on both the Chicago and New York exchanges, and he retired in 1918 and returned to Charlottesville to share the wealth.
UVA was a huge beneficiary, and gained a school of fine arts along with the commerce school, an orthopedic wing in the hospital and funding for psychiatry and cancer. Alderman Library received his collection of rare books, and the Museum of Fine Arts got 478 of his objets d’art, according to James Collier Marshall’s inventory of McIntire’s gifts in 1958.
Albemarle County schools also benefited from McIntire’s largesse. His first $5,000 was for maps, because he was shocked to discover that students didn’t have them.
Along with the Lee statue, McIntire donated sculptures of Lewis and Clark, George Rogers Clark and Stonewall Jackson, the latter of which is considered one of the finest equestrian statues in the country. McIntire’s favorite mount served as the model for Jackson’s horse, Little Sorrel. The donations were part of the early 20th century’s City Beautiful Movement, which attempted to create attractive and well-designed public spaces.
In 1975, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce named its highest award for citizens who make outstanding contributions to the community the Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award. Delegate Mitch Van Yahres was the first recipient; Marcus Martin UVA vice president and chief officer for diversity, is the most recent. In establishing the award, the chamber noted that McIntire’s “goodwill set a standard of service” for the community, says director Tim Hulbert.