NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The controversial life of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest drew sharp, passionate contrasts Thursday on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.
There were calls to either keep, or remove the general’s bust that’s been inside the capitol between the House and Senate chambers since the 1970s.
For about an hour, the issue played out in front of the commission that oversees artifacts in and around the capitol building like the Forrest bust.
“Let’s not be afraid of an object,” said lawyer H. Edward Phillips who represented descendants of the Confederate General when his statue was removed from a Memphis park in 2017.
“It is a symbol of hate and division,” countered Dr. Chris Williamson who pastors a racially mixed congregation in Nashville.
The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest was placed on the state capitol’s second floor in 1978 after a push by Nashville Democratic Senator Doug Henry and the group Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Forrest was a slave trader before the Civil War, a revered tactician during the conflict and by most accounts, an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the war.
An African-American state lawmaker suggested a solution to commission members.
“The Forrest bust is probably best served in the state museum…so everybody can appreciate the history,” Rep. Harold Love Jr. said while looking right at Sons of Confederate members who helped pack the meeting of the Tennessee Capitol Commission.
The commission would be the first of two steps to remove or change any artifact like the Forrest bust from the capitol building.
Another state lawmaker wants to keep the confederate general’s bust right where it is at the capitol.
“When I see Nathan Bedford Forrest statue there, his name is there, but I think of my ancestors who fought for the Confederacy,” said State Senator Joey Hensley. “They did not want to fight. They fought protecting their homelands.”
The commission did not set another date for discussing on the Forrest bust.
Commission chair Stuart McWhorter says a vacant seat of a commission member needs to be filled before the group meets again to take up what he called “an important issue.”
The commission’s meeting was recorded but not live streamed.
The video of the entire meeting can be seen here: https://www.tn.gov/osa/commissions/state-capitol-commission.html