Lowell Mayor Pro Tem Alan Teelander has resigned amid scrutiny of his commentary to the Great Lakes Beacon on whether the city’s Confederate-named showboat, the Robert E. Lee, would keep its name when the showboat reopens to the public.
The showboat had been shut down in January over safety concerns, though Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the boat’s revamp. The Great Lakes Beacon questioned whether, given structures named the Confederate general have been coming down in former Confederate states, the name would stick when it was opened again, to which Teelander issued a testy explanation.
He denied to MLive, which reported on the resignation, that what he wrote to the GLB was entirely cause for his resignation, instead saying he was “tired of false statements” about him. His resignation, according to a statement by the city, was effective as of midnight, August 10.
“I consider Alan Teelander to be a friend, however, Alan did what he believed was in the best interest of the City of Lowell,” Lowell Mayor Mike DeVore said in the statement. “Alan loves the City of Lowell and I am supportive of his decision. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
DeVore never responded to the GLB for comment on the naming of the boat.
Teelander’s term was scheduled to expire in January 2020, and the City Charter says a resignation of a Councilmember shall be made in writing, filed with the City Clerk, and acted upon by the Council at its next regular meeting. The Lowell City Council next meets on Monday August 21, 2017 at 7:00 PM.
Here is the original story, published Monday, August 7:
Last month, the Great Lakes Beacon published a story about taxpayer funds going to rebuild a staple in the city of Lowell, the Robert E. Lee, the city’s showboat named after a confederate war general. Today, Lowell Mayor Pro Tem Alan Teelander responded.
The Beacon sent an e-mail to Mayor Mike DeVore, as well as Teelander and a generic inbox for the Lowell Chamber of Commerce, the latter of which had been working on raising funds to rebuild the showboat that was shutdown earlier this year over safety concerns. Mayor DeVore did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The message was a follow-up to an earlier story by the Beacon, noting that some had some consternation over the city naming the showboat after a Confederate leader, especially as cities across the South have begun taking down such monuments.
Below is Teelander’s response:
“Maybe you should ask the descendants of the thousands of Black Confederate soldiers who served under General Lee about how they fee(l) about political correctness and the asking of that question?
Consider that Robert E. Lee’s leadership methods and strategies are still taught at West Point.
I personally, have no leaning on that thought except that if the people of Lowell want to change the name, maybe we should call it the William T. Sherman who literally burned the South down toward the end of the war.
If not that name, how about the “Ebenezer Rathbone” – the name of my Grandfather who gave his life during the war. A life that cost our family the farm that he and his wife Lucy owned and cleared from woods. That also caused 4 of their children to be sent to orphanages in Ionia because Ebenezer and their son Gurden (who died at James Island 6 weeks later) never came home. No adult men left to work the farm = no way to keep it.
Without those names in consideration, I would vote for naming it “The Benjamin Morse” – a Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient who lived, died and is buried in Lowell’s Oakwood Cemetery.”
Apparently, the idea of honoring an individual who sought to ensure the enslavement of black people and the separation of a nation did not seem to faze Teelander.
Further, black soldiers were not approved to fight in the Confederacy until roughly two months before the Civil War ended. And the Civil War Trust, a large non-profit devoted to the preservation of the nation’s battlegrounds – with a focus on the Civil War – indicates that some black Southerners did indeed aid the Confederacy but most were “forced to accompany their masters or were forced to toil behind the lines.”
There is also debate to this day among scholars on the actual numbers of Black Confederate soldiers. There seems to be consensus that they did indeed exist, but in what capacity – as slaves or on their own free will – is an ongoing debate, it has been reported.