Lawmakers set to debate bust of Confederate general at Tennessee state capitol


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In the next few weeks, plenty of debate is scheduled about one of the most controversial figures in Tennessee history.

It comes with dual efforts to end the state’s Nathan Bedford Forrest Day and to remove the Confederate general’s bust from the state capitol building.

The effort to end Nathan Bedford Forrest Day began last summer after news reports indicated Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a proclamation honoring the Confederate general on his July 13th birthday.

“I want to share my heart about this I didn’t like it,” Lee told WKRN-TV last July two days after the Nathan Bedford Forrest Day took place.

By state law, every governor since 1931 has been required to sign the proclamation for Nathan Bedford Forrest who was a slave trader before the Civil War, a renowned tactician during the conflict and an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the war.

The governor in July called parts of Forrest’s life painful for many Tennesseans–particularly African-Americans.

“That’s really the reason I did not like signing that proclamation,” said Governor Lee in his July interview, “And that’s why I think we ought to change that law.”

His administration has a bill to do just that filed late last week just before the deadline.

Its identical to the one filed by Memphis Rep. London Lamar.

She brought her bill doing away with Nathan Bedford Forrest Day to a Tennessee House committee Tuesday.

“I am pushing this bill because as you know Nathan Bedford Forrest has made a very bleak impact on Tennessee’s rich history,” she said before the Tuesday afternoon committee. “And I truly believe our state days should be reserved for individuals who have made a positive impact on Tennessee’s history.”

The sponsor asked for and was granted a two-week extension for a vote on the bill, saying she would work together with Governor Lee’s bill doing away with Nathan Bedford Forrest day,

Removing Nathan Bedford Forrest Day is one issue.

Removing the Confederate general’s bust in the state capitol is another.

That issue comes before the Tennessee Capitol Commission on February 20th.

The Capitol Commission agenda for that day says there will be only discussion about the Forrest bust and no votes.

The commission would be the first of two steps to removing the bust.

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