NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A legislative hearing about the controversial bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee state capitol turned partially into a rare public defense of the Confederate general Tuesday.
It was testimony from two members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who said they had never spoken about the Forrest bust before a legislative committee.
“I believe the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest needs to stay in the state capitol building to help remember the history of our past,” said James Patterson who testified first before the House committee considering a resolution “suggesting” the Forrest bust be removed.
Patterson added that he believed the resolution was “an end run” around the Tennessee Capitol Commission which is expected to take up the bust issue at a Feb. 20 meeting.
The second Son of Confederate Veterans member suggested lawmakers should look for context in General Forrest being a slave trader before the Civil War.
“An individual must be judged by the standards of the times in which they live — not the standards of today,” Michael Bradley, who identified himself as a retired history teacher at Motlow State, said. “If you judge the past by today, the past is always going to be wrong.”
Bradley then questioned whether or not Forrest was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan calling accounts that he was “second-hand.”
The rare public testimony from the Sons of Confederate Veterans members came in response to the resolution filed by Knoxville Representative Rick Staples who along with suggesting the Forrest bust removal, tossed out names of potential replacements in his legislation.
The resolution mentions William F. Yardley, who was the first African-American to run for governor and Anne M. Davis who played a role in making the Great Smoky Mountains a national park.
“Imagine if you will, children of various socioeconomic backgrounds, various cultures looking up at William F. Yardley, looking up at Anne Davis … and then beginning to ask questions, who were they?” Staples said before his resolution was heard.
The sponsor says his resolution is meant to add to the conversation expected in February when the capitol commission is planning to take up the issue of the Confederate general’s bust.
The group could be the first step in removing it.
“As we consider replacing that bust, who do we look at replacing it? What other great Tennesseans can we capture? That’s what I want to do in the resolution,” added Staples.
The legislative committee delayed voting on the Forrest resolution.
It means more debate about the bust issue and potential replacements will likely be heard again next week.