NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For years, he peered down from a hillside overlooking the interstate — hard for anyone to miss. But now, the controversial statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest along I-65 just south of Nashville is gone.
The controversial statue came down Tuesday morning, and the decision came after the death of the property owner. The late Jack Kershaw sculpted the 25-foot statue and put in on private land owned by his friend, Bill Dorris, overlooking I-65 back in 1998.
Dorris knew thousands of people driving by would see it every single day.
There was controversy with Nathan Bedford Forrest considering his past as a Confederate General and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Over the years, Dorris refused to move the statue, despite pleas from those who viewed it as a symbol of racism. The statue was repeatedly vandalized — at one point splashed with pink paint.
Dorris decided to leave it, thinking the statue would stand out even more. Dorris died this past year.
In his will, he left $5 million for his Border Collie, Lulu — a number which has since been reduced considerably. He left a building and flag display to The Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The rest of the property went to the Battle of Nashville Trust. The executor of the will decided to remove the statue, with the approval of the trust.
The group issued a statement explaining why, in part:
- Forrest was not at the Battle of Nashville.
- The property has no historical significance to the battle.
- The statue was ugly.
- Even Forrest would think it was was ugly.
And so, 23 years after the fiberglass and steel statue went up, Nathan Bedford Forrest and his horse came down. They are now gone from their very visible perch above the interstate just south of the city.
For now, the statue, which did suffer some damage coming down, will be held in storage — with its future uncertain.
You can read the entire statement from the Battle of Nashville Trust below:
Mr. Dorris had no prior affiliation with the Battle of Nashville Trust, Inc. and the Trust had no idea it was a beneficiary of his will until well after Mr. Dorris passed.
The Dorris will leaves the Hogan Road property to the Battle of Nashville Trust , Inc. There are some restrictions and we will let the court decide all of this.
Preservation of history is critical. The Nashville battlefield was one of the largest in the Civil War and the least protected. It spans from the Cumberland River near Charlotte Pike east to the other side of Nolensville Road and South from the hills just south of town all the way to Brentwood. The core battlefield covers most of Green Hills all the way east to I-65. The citizens of Nashville tried to protect some of the site as early as the 1920s but were unsuccessful. Development and time have made the battlefield virtually unrecognizable. However, the Trust, in conjunction with its partners including Metro Nashville, have been able to save some of the sites for all Americans. The interest in the Civil War and the battle here is huge. We have had over a million visitors to our website from all over the country and the world. People want to know where their great great great grandfather fought and his roots in time and history. We are proud of what we have accomplished. Our sites are hidden gems in the community-protected forever-for all to enjoy.
The battle here was perhaps the most decisive victory for the United States during the war and it ended major fighting in the western campaign. The largest attack of the war by African Americans -the USCT-occurred here on Franklin Pike near Battery Lane and their casualties were enormous. History is important. It tends to repeat itself. And it is all in our backyards. The Battle of Nashville was a pivotal moment in our nations bloodiest conflict. The Hogan Road property is not core battlefield land. It is a sliver of the retreat. Putting aside a debate about Forrest as a person and commander and all of the related controversy, the position of the Trust on this statue is:
1. Forrest was not present at the Battle of Nashville
2. The property has no historical significance related to the battle other than a spring house and ice house that was part of a large estate where CSA Brig. General Claudius Sears was taken for a leg amputation-the home has long since been destroyed by Interstate 65
3. The statue is ugly
4. Even Forrest would think it is ugly
5. It hinders our mission and what we are trying to accomplish.
The Trust is grateful for the gift by Mr. Dorris.