Tenn. panel rejects effort to remove Confederate general's bust from Capitol

Aug. 14, 2017: Protesters gathered in Nashville to show their objection to a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in the State Capitol.

NASHVILLE - The effort to move the controversial bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol stalled Friday after a panel of officials rejected the idea.

At a meeting of the state Capitol Commission, state Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin requested a waiver necessary for the relocation of the Forrest bust to the state museum.

The commission voted 7 to 5 against requesting a waiver.

Among those who voted to reject the waiver request were Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Treasurer David Lillard.

While introducing his motion, Martin said the Capitol should be a place that represents a united Tennessee rather than a divided one.

"I believe General Forrest's bust should be relocated from the Capitol building to the state museum," he said.

Opponents of the bust point to Forrest's involvement with the Ku Klux Klan — he served as their first grand wizard — and the fact that he made his fortune as a slave trader.

Defenders of the bust say it commemorates the native Tennessean's role as a general for the Confederacy and removing it would be ignoring history. They also note after leaving the Klan Forrest advocated for civil rights.

While discussing his motion, Martin said a vote for relocating the bust to the state museum is a vote for unity and civility.

After Martin's motion, the commission had a lengthy discussion about the bust, which has come under fire in the aftermath of violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., last month, and other issues.

Rep. Curtis Johnson said the removal of the Forrest bust could lead to a slippery slope. "Where does this stop?" he rhetorically asked.

Hargett said he was concerned the commission was undoing the work of the state's elected officials.

Howard Gentry, one of three private citizens serving on the commission, said it is time to move the bust. "I don't feel like punting today," he said.

Jennifer Donnals, a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Haslam, who asked the commission to take up the issue, said the governor was "very disappointed with the decision."

The Capitol Commission's action came after protesters, Haslam and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have all called for the bust's removal from the statehouse.

Immediately after the commission's vote lawmakers hailed the commission for having "common sense."

 

 

The bust has been in the Capitol since 1978.

The following is how members of the state Capitol Commission voted on the motion to seek a waiver to relocate the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Yes

Finance and Administration Commission Larry Martin; General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby; Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau; Tennessee Historical Commission chair Reavis Mitchell; private citizen Howard Gentry

No

Secretary of State Tre Hargett; State Treasurer David Lillard; Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson; Sen. Jack Johnson; Rep. Curtis Johnson; private citizen Tammy White; private citizen King Rogers

Tennessean


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