Sons of Confederate Veterans file suit to keep Confederate general’s bust at Tennessee capitol

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The bust of a Confederate general inside the Tennessee State Capitol isn’t going anywhere without a legal fight.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with its Tennessee Division and local Joe Johnston Camp #28, filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Capitol Commission and the state Monday. They aim to keep the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest right where it is on the Capitol’s second floor between the House and Senate chambers.

Earlier this summer, the Capitol Commission took the first step to remove the Forrest bust and put it in the Tennessee State Museum. However, the lawsuit stated the commission “did not have jurisdiction of the second floor of the Capitol” and wants the decision to be declared “null and void” by a Davidson County Chancery Court.

The lawsuit argued, “The Forrest bust and its placement were directed by legislative action and can only be altered by subsequent direct legislative action.”

The lawsuit indicates in 1973, the “Tennessee State Senate passed a Joint Resolution, with the concurrence of the House of Representatives, regarding the creation and placement of the historical bust of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.”

Doug Jones, the attorney for the Sons of Confederate Veterans group said, “We feel the law was not followed properly as we set out in the complaint.” He added, “We did not think it should have been an emergency (July) meeting. There was nothing about that bust that required an emergency even under the Governor’s order.”

Jones continued, “I have had these heritage protection cases for many many years, and number one slavery was terrible. But, you can’t erase history – the good or the bad.” The attorney questioned “Where does it end?” with removing statues.

Lawyers for the state and capitol commission had not yet seen the lawsuit as of Monday afternoon.

Funds for the bust were raised by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, its Tennessee Division and the Joe Johnston Camp #28. The bust was placed on the Capitol’s 2nd floor in 1978.

Governor Bill Lee spoke at the Tennessee Capitol Commission meeting July 9th where he urged its members to take action on the bust. A previous attempt to remove the Confederate general’s bust from the capitol failed at the commission in 2017.

Forrest was revered for his tactics during the Civil War, but reviled as a slave trader before the conflict.

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