Tennessee Governor Apologizes for Wearing Confederate Uniform to College Parties

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Another day in 2019, another white politician being forced to apologize for wearing blackface or some kind of racist garb—a Klansman robe here, a Confederate uniform there.


On Thursday, according to the Tennessean, Republican Gov. Bill Lee said that he regretted attending an “Old South” party held by his college fraternity at Auburn University, during which he dressed as a Confederate soldier. In Auburn University’s 1980 yearbook, Lee and another man are pictured wearing Confederate army uniforms, along with two women wearing antebellum dresses, at the annual Kappa Alpha Order party.

The USA Today Network, which operates the Tennessean, obtained the Auburn University photo of Lee amid a network-wide review of yearbooks from the 1970s and 80s at 120 schools across 25 states.

“While I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way, with 40 years of hindsight, I have come to realize that was insensitive and have come to regret that,” Lee’s statement to the Tennessean read.

Two other photos with different people in Confederate clothing on the same yearbook page as Lee’s photo include the caption, “The South shall rise again, right Bill! When the band plays ‘Dixie’, a tear comes to our eyes. I’d do anything Lee, but she comes first,” according to the Associated Press. The yearbook page also describes the fraternity as beholding the ideals of “Southern Culture,” and that its founders saw “chivalry, valor, loyalty and reverence for womankind” in Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

During Lee’s fraternity participation, Kappa Alpha also celebrated Robert E. Lee’s birthday annually with an event called Convivium. The fraternity’s national organization has since prohibited the display of Confederate flags, and in 2010 banned members from wearing Confederate uniforms at events, according to the Tennessean.

Lee’s office initially said the governor was unaware that such a photo existed. On Thursday, however, press secretary Laine Arnold confirmed that the photo of Lee in a Confederate uniform existed. Arnold also said that Lee has never worn blackface or attended parties where others wore blackface, nor had been a part of groups or activities since college that are “racially insensitive or offensive.”


The heat over racism in yearbooks began earlier this month after a racist picture was discovered on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page. Northam at first apologized for the picture, but later claimed it wasn’t him, although he did admit to wearing blackface on another occasion. Following Northam’s admission, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted to wearing blackface as a college undergraduate. Despite calls to resign, neither has stepped down.

According to the AP, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp attended the University of Georgia in 1983, when the Kappa Alpha fraternity also hosted Old South parties on the campus, though nothing in his yearbook suggests he attended them. And Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told the paper that she didn’t remember an event photographed in the Auburn yearbook in 1967 showing Alpha Gam sorority members wearing black masks to look like “Minstrels welcome rushees aboard their showboat,” despite her being a sorority member the year the photo was taken.


If Northam is any indication, however, chances are slim to none that Lee— or anyone else—will ever face any consequences.

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan