The 30-cent stamp portrays Robert E. Lee (1807-1870). The image was inspired by two prints obtained at the Library of Congress—a Brady print that features Lee in uniform was used for his facial features, and a negative owned by L.C. Handy of Washington, D.C., was used for Lee's civilian attire.
The stamp was first available on September 21, 1955, at Norfolk, Virginia. There were many Lee enthusiasts who went to great lengths to fly stamps to Alexandria, Virginia, to have them postmarked on the date so that they could have first day covers from Lee’s birthplace.
Lee was born on January 19, 1807, and many people in the South celebrate “Robert E. Lee Day” on January 19. Lee was a career army officer and a leader of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. He eventually commanded all Confederate armies as general-in-chief. His victories against superior forces in an ultimately losing cause won him enduring fame and respect. After the war, he urged sectional reconciliation. He spent his final years as president of the college that would come to bear his name.