FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. – Previously known as the “Lee Theater” and often referred to as the “Lee Playhouse,” one of the oldest brick-and-mortar facilities on post was officially redesignated May 7 as the “Beaty Theater” in honor of a Richmond native and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
The renaming of the theater after U.S. Army Sgt. Powhatan Beaty was prompted by a Congressional mandate in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to remove or modify the names of Defense Department assets that commemorate the Confederate States of America or anyone who voluntarily served under them.
According to the final report from the Naming Commission, which considered him a potential namesake for the entire installation, Beaty was born to an enslaved family in Richmond that eventually secured its freedom and moved to Ohio by the time he reached age 12. After the Emancipation Proclamation authorized Black men to serve in the military in 1863, Beaty enlisted in the 5th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops, which fought in several local battles during the Civil War.
During a small ceremony outside the theater – built in 1950 – Garrison Commander Col. James Hoyman remarked on the importance of commemorating Soldiers like Beaty.
“What we want to make sure we represent on this installation is the power of non-commissioned officers,” Hoyman said.
“Although he enlisted as a private, Beaty’s leadership was immediately evident and he was promoted to SGT on his second day of service,” the Naming Commission wrote in its final report. “Beaty showed repeated valor and courage during subsequent missions and battles. Fighting in the crucial 1864 Battle of New Market Heights, Beaty took command of the remaining troops after all officers were killed or wounded, regrouping and leading them on a final renewed assault. They captured the Confederate position, securing tactical and strategic successes. Beaty received the Medal of Honor for his actions. By the end of the war, Beaty had fought in 13 battles.”
“The people who do the work – make it happen – are non-commissioned officers,” Hoyman said, addressing a few dozen Soldiers from the 244th Quartermaster Battalion along with “Mamma Mia!” cast members who performed the musical in the theater shortly afterward.
“Being a sponsor for the theater here for the last nine years, I want to say that the 244th Quartermaster Battalion is very honored in doing this along with the garrison,” said Lt. Col. Michael Martin, battalion commander.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the new “Beaty Theater” sign on the theater marquee, commemorating a Soldier who – appropriately enough for the venue – toured the country after his military service for many years as a successful actor.