Tennessee gov regrets wearing Confederate uniform in photo

Photo appears in 1980 yearbook

AP via CNN

In this 1980 University of Auburn yearbook photo, released by the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Lee is pictured in a Confederate states costume while attending the university, in Auburn, Alabama. Lee said he now regrets participating in…

(CNN) - The governor of Tennessee said he regrets participating in "Old South" fraternity parties when he attended Auburn University and wearing a Confederate army uniform found in a 1980 yearbook photo.

"I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that participating in that was insensitive and I've come to regret it," Republican Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement provided by his office to The Tennessean. CNN has reached out to the governor's office for comment.

Lee attended Auburn University from 1977 to 1981, and was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order, The Tennessean reported.

The governor's office initially told the newspaper that it was unaware of any photos of Lee in a Confederate uniform. A few days later, on Thursday, Lee's press secretary confirmed to the newspaper the existence of the 1980 Auburn University yearbook photograph.

The photograph unearthed by the Tennessean shows Lee in a Confederate style uniform at a Kappa Alpha Order's "Old South" formal.

The Kappa Alpha Order names Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as a "spiritual founder," though he was never a member. In recent years, the fraternity has prohibited the wearing of Confederate uniforms, the display of Confederate flags, and the use of the name "Old South" for sponsored events.

The discovery of Lee in a Confederate uniform comes after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls to resign over a racist photo found on his 1984 medical school yearbook page.

Northam, a Democrat, initially acknowledged he was in the photograph that showed two men, one in a KKK robe and hood and the other in blackface, though he not say which one he was. He apologized before retracting his apology a day later and insisting he was not in the photograph. But he admitted to once darkening his face to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest in 1984. The state's Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, also disclosed that he once wore blackface at a 1980s college party.

Lee's office told the Tennessean that the governor never wore blackface.

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