On November 23, 1948, Postmaster General Jesse M. Donaldson announced that he had authorized the issuance of a special 3-cent postage stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of the founding of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The central design of the stamp is a view of the university, to the left and right of which are portraits of generals George Washington and Robert E. Lee, respectively.
The portrait of Washington used in this stamp is identical to the portrait previously used on the 3-cent Centenary of Postage Stamps commemorative, issued in 1947. In an unusual step, a transfer roll was made from the die of the Centenary stamp and rolled into the new Washington and Lee stamp die. The only change made was in the name beneath the portrait "Washington," newly engraved in slightly smaller lettering. The Lee portrait uses the same source material as was used to make the 4-cent gray of the 1936-1937 Army Series, but a new engraving was made facing to the left, with all insignia of rank omitted on the coat collar.
Early in 1948, Francis P. Gaines of Washington and Lee University appointed Roy J. Grimley, class of 1921, as chairman of the Stamp Committee in connection with the 200th anniversary celebration of the founding of Washington and Lee University. Stamp collector Grimley immediately began to prepare a design for the stamp and contacted postal officials for approval. Mr. Grimley chaired the First Day ceremony, which took place on April 12, 1949, in front of the university's McCormick Library.
Design credit is given to Mr. Grimley for this stamp, which Victor S. McCloskey, Jr., of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing modeled. The portrait of Washington was engraved by E.R. Grove for the 1947 centenary stamp; the portrait of Lee and the vignette were engraved by G.A. Gunderson. G.L. Huber engraved the outline frame, lettering, and numerals.