State Building Commission to vote on the removal of Nathan Bedford Forrest bust

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Posted at 3:24 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 19:35:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The final vote for the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust is happening this week.

The State Building Commission will vote on a measure to remove the controversial bust, and the busts of two Tennessee war heroes, from the capitol building.

The commission has six members, plus Governor Bill Lee in the event of a tie. For the bust to be removed, a majority vote is needed.

Based on voting history and statements sent to NewsChannel5 from each of the members, it's expected the vote will go 4-2 in favor of the removal of the NBF bust.

In such a case, removal can begin immediately to the bust's new permanent location in the Tennessee State Museum.

The two 'no' votes come from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Speaker Cameron Sexton.

Speaker Sexton said in a statement: “I have always been about following the process laid out in statute, and whatever the outcome is, we will continue to follow the process. As for me, I will be voting no in the State Building Commission on Thursday.”

“Lt. Governor McNally's office released the following statement: “Lt. Governor McNally’s position has remained the same over a number of years. He prefers context to removal and he plans to vote consistent with that position. Due to the shifting public positions of many who will be voting on Thursday, Lt. Governor McNally hesitates to speculate on the outcome. The law and past precedent clearly outline the need for concurrence by the State Building Commission. While the vote should have occurred prior to the waiver being submitted to the Historical Commission, this is a necessary step to ensure that in future cases the law is followed to the letter and in proper order.”

The Tennessee Historical Commission voted earlier this year to move the bust to the Tennessee State Museum. But because of state law, it couldn't be moved until at least July 9 – 120 days after the vote.

Gov. Bill Lee and the State Capitol Commission also recommended that the bust be moved to the state museum. Activists have been calling for the bust’s removal for years.

The Capitol Commission approved a petition to remove the Forrest bust on July 9, 2020. However, state law requires that the state Historical Commission to also sign off on any moving any war memorials.

The Historical Commission approved the petition in March after a 120-day waiting period also required by state law.

The Forrest bust was unveiled in 1978 and has sparked multiple protests demanding its removal over the years. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1800s.

Last year, the Capitol Commission voted to remove not only Forrest's bust, but the busts of Admiral David Farragut and Admiral Albert Gleaves, as well.