Haslam says he supports statue removal, but won’t advance Historical Commission meeting

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- As Gov. Bill Haslam took in the Memphis Hall of Fame induction announcement Tuesday at Clayborn Temple, he acknowledged he'd like to see two Confederate statues in Memphis removed by the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in April 2017.

“Mayor Strickland has reached out to me several times saying he wants it to come down, thinks it should. I agree with him.”

But he did not outline how that could happen in the coming days, amid heated debate between advocates and city leaders since the Charlottesville episode.

The Tennessee Historical Commission must approve Memphis’ request to take down two monuments, one of KKK member Nathan Bedford Forrest and another of Confederacy leader Jefferson Davis.

But the Commission’s next meeting is in October, and it isn’t slated to actually vote until February.

Haslam said he would not tell the commission to meet earlier.

“They have their schedule. I think it’s important to let them stick to what their schedule is. That would not be my intention. I don’t call that. I’m not the chair,” he said.

State Sen. Lee Harris sent a letter to the governor, in which he asked Haslam, among other things, to submit legislation to return control of the statues to the city of Memphis.

Haslam said he supported the city’s right to make such decisions.

“I think the principle here is local government should get to decide for themselves what happens on their property. I’m a mayor, or I used to be a mayor, so I support that,” he said.

But he did not explain how it could happen any earlier than February.

Haslam also said he wanted the Forrest bust in the Capitol to be moved to the state museum.