Senator Gilmore will ask capitol commission to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest bust

Posted at 8:17 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 00:07:28-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The fate of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust inside the State Capitol will be decided in two days by the State Capitol Commission.

The commission will hear testimony and vote Thursday on whether to remove the bust from the capitol or keep it in its place.

Nashville Democratic State Senator Brenda Gilmore says she's going to ask the commission to take it down.

Forrest's controversial history in the state has spurred numerous protests in and around the capitol building. He was a known slave trader, Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the KKK.

Sen. Gilmore said Forrest doesn't belong in a place of honor alongside the state's past leaders.

"The fact that he was the first grand wizard of the KKK who absolutely tortured black people during this time, is nothing for us to celebrate," said Gilmore. "I'm not trying to whitewash or replace history but the best place for him is in the state museum."

Supporters of the bust staying in the capitol say it's a part of the state's history and shouldn't be moved.

Governor Bill Lee said the issue is outside of his control and is up to the capitol commission.

"The commission process that's set up by the legislature protects the integrity of historical displays," said Governor Lee in a press conference last Wednesday. "So, that any changes are rooted in thoughtful civic discourse. This process is the opposite of the mob rule that has been dominating the national headlines around historical displays. I promise that our process in the capitol commission will be fair and representative of Tennesseans."

If the commission votes to take it down, the issue will then be discussed by the Tennessee Historical Commission.

"This is the perfect window for us to extend the olive [branch] and work on race reconciliation and if we don't take this opportunity I think we will be out of step with the rest of the country," said Gilmore.