Tennessee Capitol Commission votes against removing bust honoring Confederate general, early KKK leader

NASHVILLE (WATE) — By a 7-5 vote, the Capitol Commmission stopped any further steps to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Capitol.

Forrest was a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army and is believed to have served as the Klu Klux Klan’s first grand wizard, although he later denied the association. His bust sits between the Tennessee House and Senate on the second floor of the state capitol.

The Forrest bust has been the target of protests for years. The latest push to remove it comes after violent protests started by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Friday, those calls from protesters, which were echoed by Governor Bill Haslam and two Tennessee Republican U.S. Senators, were not heard by a slim majority of the state’s capitol commission.

“All heritages need to be represented in an historical context for history to appropriately learned and the lessons of history not repeated and the lessons good bad or indifferent to be learned by the present generation,” said State Treasurer David Lillard.

Each of Tennesee’s three constitutional officers who are on the commission raised issues about why the Forrest bust should not be removed and sent to the state museum as requested by the governor. The Secretary of State, Tre Hargett, said the legislature put the bust there in the 1970s and its members should be the ones taking action.

“I have a real concern that we are going to undo an act that was taken by elected officials in this state by a group not majority elected,” said Hargett.

The constitutional officers’ views raise eyebrows and the ire of two Democrat, African-American Housemembers, who vow a bill to remove the bust.

“The capitol is no place to honor individuals who fought against the Union–those who dealt in slave trade,” said State Represenative Harold Love Jr.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway added, “I am concerned about our constitutional officers. I have worked with them on many issues. I thought they would at least have some deference and concern about the feelings we might have.”

A spokesperson from Governor Haslam’s office said he is also disappointed with the committees decision.

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