Bill would remove all members of the historical commission

Capitol View
Posted at 6:17 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 10:04:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Not even two weeks after the historical commission voted to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol, state senators are trying to vote to remove all members from the commission.

Senator Joey Hensley, a Hohenwald Republican, sponsored the bill. It would replace all of the members of the 29 person commission with 12 new members.

Currently, 24 of the commissioners are appointed by the governor of the state. Sen. Hensley's bill would reduce the total number of members to 12. The governor, Lt. Governor and state speaker of the house would each choose four members.

While not specifically mentioning the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the meeting, members made references to decisions the historical commission has recently made.

The commission voted to remove Forrest's bust from the capitol building on March 8.

Forrest is a controversial figure in the state's history. He was a slave trader, Confederate war general and one of the first leaders of the KKK. His image displayed prominently outside both houses of the legislature has been the center of many protests through the years.

"In our culture today it seems there is a desire to cancel history, cancel culture, cancel narratives that are just based on fact. I think that that's a dangerous precedent," said Tullahoma republican Senator Janice Bowling.

Another Republican, Senator Mike Bell of Riceville, said he wouldn't support the bill because it's improper to change the rules when the commission makes a decision some lawmakers don't like.

"That's the process that we created for removing a monument," said Sen. Bell. "Every time we get a decision about a monument or a statue that we don't like, then we want to come back and change it again? If we want to put it in our hands, then let's just do a bill to do away with it completely and let the legislature vote on it."

Other legislative leaders said they weren't sure whether or not the historical commission followed the correct path to remove the monument. They're waiting to hear an opinion on the issue from Attorney General Herbert Slatery.