Commission votes to move Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from Capitol

Posted at 7:43 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 19:25:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee’s State Building Commission has voted 5-2 to move the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest out of the Capitol building. Gov. Bill Lee also cast a vote for its removal.

The two "no" votes came from Lt. Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton. Both have voiced their opposition of removing the bust and instead adding context to the statue.

Statement from Speaker Sexton:

“There has only been one perfect person to walk on this earth - everyone else has fallen short. Our country was established by imperfect people who made a great country that stands for hope, opportunity, and liberty.

Trying to judge past generations’ actions based on today’s values and the evolution of societies is not an exercise I am willing to do because I think it is counterproductive.

It is much more productive to learn from our past and not repeat the imperfections of the past. Any attempt to erase the past only aligns society with the teaching of communism, which believes the present dominates the past.

From the very beginning, the legislature has tried to follow the process and procedure in a respectful manner, and we did that today. Moving forward, the legislature will be working on revising current law to include a more significant voice of those elected.”

Statement from Lt. Governor McNally:

“My position on the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest has been clear and consistent over a number of years. I believe that context is needed, but not removal. No one is arguing that Forrest is not a problematic figure. He is. But there is more to his story. His life eventually followed a redemptive arc which I hope is outlined in great detail in our state museum.

No figure honored on the capitol grounds or across this state could stand up to modern scrutiny. Without historical context, we would have no Tennessee heroes, only villains. No Christian saints, only sinners. As Winston Churchill once said, 'Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.' The left-wing activists who are pushing an anti-American, anti-history agenda here in Tennessee and across the nation will not stop with Nathan Bedford Forrest. The woke mob means ultimately to uproot and discard not just Southern symbols, but American heroes and history as well.

This is not the end. It is the beginning. The left will move on to the next figure or monument and demand that we again kneel at the altar of political correctness. While the governor and the constitutional officers did not stand with me today, I hope they will next time. Because more fights are coming.”

Preparations have already gotten underway to move the bust to the Tennessee State Museum. The agreement also meant the busts of Admiral David Farragut and Admiral Albert Greaves would also be moved to the museum.

Gov. Lee's Office said the actual removal will happen Friday morning.

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This sign was placed at the base of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust after the State Building Commission voted to move it from the Capitol.

Nathan Bedford Forrest is a controversial figure and has been the at the center of several protests throughout the years. Forrest was the first grand wizard of the KKK and a confederate general with a brutal reputation for killing Black soldiers after they had surrendered.

Still, through the years, state leaders kept the bust in place in the halls of the Capitol. But over the last year, support shifted to remove the bust.