US Army renames Fort Lee to honor 2 pioneering Black military officers

US Army renames Fort Lee to honor 2 pioneering Black military officers

FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. — U.S. Army Virginia garrison, Fort Lee, was renamed Thursday to Fort Gregg-Adams in honor of two Black officers who helped advance inclusivity and made significant marks in the military. 

The post is one of nine that will be redesignated to remove the names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that commemorate the Confederacy, according to the Department of Defense. 

The path to retired Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg’s name being placed on an Army post started out at the honored-to-be-included stage and ended with him being “overwhelmed” at being chosen. 

“I was obviously very honored that they felt I was worthy of my name being here,” Gregg said Thursday afternoon, not long after Fort Lee officially became Fort Gregg-Adams. “When the decision was made that the post would be redesignated Gregg-Adams, I was really overwhelmed with pride and with joy.” 

History was made on several fronts Thursday afternoon when the drapes were pulled off the new gate signs bearing the names of Gregg and the late Lt. Col. Charity Adams. 

It is the first time in military history that an installation was named after Black soldiers and the first time in modern military history that an Army post was named for someone still living — Gregg is 94, and Adams died in 2002 at the age of 83 — and one that carries the names of two people.

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First post named after Black officersGregg, who once taught at Fort Lee and even retired from the post in 1981, was the first Black officer to attain the rank of three-star (lieutenant) general. At the time of his retirement, Gregg was the highest-ranked Army officer of color. 

Adams was the first Black woman to be made an officer in the Army and the first to command a battalion of Black and Hispanic female soldiers in World War II. Her command, known as the 6888th, delivered mail and other necessities to soldiers on the front lines of the European Theater. 

“She was always extremely proud of the 6-Triple 8,” her son Stanley Earley said during a news conference after the ceremony. He and his sister, Judith, represented the Adams family at the ceremony and helped remove the drapes, but they did not speak during the event. 

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Renaming reflects diversity, inclusivityThe names of Gregg and Adams replaced that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, a decorated U.S. Army officer who resigned his commission to lead the Confederate army in the Civil War.

In 2020, Congress ordered the names of Lee and eight other Confederate leaders removed and replaced with those who reflect diversity and inclusivity of today’s Army following a series of protests earlier in the year over racial inequality. Those protests were prompted by the high-profile deaths of Black citizens at the hands of police officers across the nation. 

During the news conference, Gregg was asked if he found the idea disturbing that a military post, especially one where he was denied entry into civic and social places and functions because of his skin color, would be named for an officer whose government he fought for stood for racial segregation. 

“It was troubling,” Gregg said. “General Lee had a tremendous record as a soldier, as a graduate of the Military Academy. But during a critical time in our history and certainly in his life, he elected to go to the other side. 

“We are troubled by anyone deserting the United States Army and going to the other side and fighting against us.” 

Gregg said he thinks Lee was “judged on two levels” — as a cadet at West Point and U.S. Army soldier, and then as a leader of the Confederacy.  “He was viewed negatively because of his fight against the United States of America,” Gregg said. 

Honoring Gregg and AdamsThe 50-minute invitation-only ceremony Thursday was held beneath a tent in front of the Gregg-Adams Club and was packed to the flaps. Several hundred people, including federal and state representatives, attended and expressed their support for the redesignation.

Maj. Gen. Mark Simerly, the final commanding general of Fort Lee and the first commanding general of Fort Gregg-Adams, said the name change gives the Army the opportunity “to tell the story of two great Americans.”

“As our commonwealth and our country continue working to dismantle long-standing systems of oppression and address institutional racism, this is another encouraging step in those efforts,” Rep. Jennifer McClellan, D-Virginia, whose district includes Fort Gregg-Adams, said in a statement.

During his brief remarks, Gregg thanked his parents and other mentors. He made a special mention of his late wife, Charlene. 

“She was an outstanding Army wife and a loving companion,” Gregg said. “And without her love and support, I would not be standing here today.” 

Fort Gregg-Adams is the second of three military posts in Virginia earmarked for change. Last month, Fort Pickett in Nottoway County was renamed Fort Barfoot in memory of Lt. Col. Van Barfoot, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in World War II.

Fort A.P. Hill is to be renamed Fort Walker in memory of Civil War surgeon Dr. Mary Walker, the first and so far only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. The date for that ceremony has not yet been scheduled.

Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.



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