Nathan Bedford Forrest bust now on display at state museum

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Posted at 8:21 AM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 09:45:40-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest is now on display at the Tennessee State Museum after being moved from the Tennessee Capitol last week.

The Forrest bust was removed from the Capitol on Friday morning after more than 40 years. The busts of Union Navy Adm. David Farragut and U.S. Navy Adm. Albert Gleaves also were moved.

Crews remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the Tennessee State Capitol.

Museum Director Ashley Howell said museums preserve historical objects and offer connections to the past and public spaces for reflection. She said they are prepared to put the artifacts in that setting.

As we know, the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest has been surrounded in controversy for decades. He was a general of the confederate army and a first-era leader of the KKK.

Last week, the State Building Commission voted 5-2 to have the bust removed. 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.

The bust has actually been moved before. Back in 2010, the bust was moved from outside the doors of the House to the main hallway between the chambers.

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The bronze bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest at the State Capitol, with a thank you note to "all the protesters" who made the move happen.

Removing this bust, along with two others, cost $17,000, which is being covered by the museum.

The three statues be on display during regular business hours.


The first calls for the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest came in 1973. Senate Joint Resolution 54 that year -- from late Tennessee Senator Douglas Henry -- called for the procurement of the bust, to be placed on display at the State Capitol.

READ MORE: Fact Check: Was Nathan Bedford Forrest A Civil Rights Leader? Not Exactly

On April 13, 1973, the resolution was approved.

Sculpted by Loura Jane Herndon Baxendale, the bust was installed at the Capitol on November 5, 1978. The installation was completed amid protests against the bust the same day.

In 2010, the bust was moved from its place outside the doors of the House of Representatives to the main corridor between the Senate and House chambers.


Following the Charleston, S.C. mass shooting in June 2015, a number of Democrat and Republican lawmakers and public officials called for the removal of the Forrest bust. Supporting its removal were Representative Jim Cooper, then-Representative Bob Corker, then-Governor Bill Haslam and then-Senator Bob Corker.

On September 1, 2017, despite the calls to remove it, a state commission voted 7-5 to keep the bust at the Capitol. In December that same year, then-Representative, now-Senator Brenda Gilmore filed legislation to have the bust relocated to the Tennessee State Museum.

Protests against the bust have continued consistently since then. In December 2019, 43,000 virtual signatures calling for the removal of the bust were delivered to Governor Bill Lee's office.

The protests hit a fever pitch again in June 2020 after George Floyd's death. On July 9, 2020, the State Capitol Commission voted 9-2 to have the bust removed, along with the busts of along with busts of Admiral David Farragut and Admiral Albert Gleaves.

The final vote to have the bust moved from the Capitol to the State Museum was made Thursday by Tennessee's State Building Commission, approving the removal of the bust 5-2.

More In-Depth:

A look at the history of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at the Capitol

“Editors Note: In a previous version of the video, we said Memphis Rep. Antonio Parkinson came to see the bust in its new location. While Parkinson was as the museum, he says it was not to visit the bust. We have removed that version of the video”