NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Friday marks the first day that it's possible for the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed from the Tennessee State Capitol.
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 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.
"We are working to determine next steps and will provide updates accordingly," Lee's spokesperson Casey Black said. "Our plans have not changed."
The Capitol Commission approved a petition to remove the Forrest bust on July 9, 2020.
"I mean the real question is why aren't we moving that statue out of that building today," said Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville.
Stewart says the waiting period is over and it's time to remove the Nathan Bedford Forest Bust from the Capitol Building.
"No more excuses. This is foolishness. I call on Governor Lee to get Nathan Bedford forest, how does the state capitol this afternoon. "
State law requires the state Historical Commission to also sign off on any moving any war memorials.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Speaker Cameron Sexton says this law wasn't followed in this process.
“It is Lt. Governor McNally’s understanding that the item will appear on a State Building Commission’s July 22 meeting agenda. Lt. Governor McNally continues to stand by his assertion that the State Building Commission must concur in the action of the State Capitol Commission as has consistently been done in the past in similar situations. General Slatery’s published opinion supports that assertion," said Adam Kleinheider, Communications Director for Lt. Governor Randy McNally.
Speaker Cameron Sexton's office said, “From the beginning, the goal has always been to follow the correct process outlined in existing law. Speaker Sexton continues to agree with Lt. Gov. McNally that the lawful process includes an SBC (State Building Commission) vote; we anticipate that vote taking place later this month, but we will not speculate on how it will turn out.“
The Historical Commission approved the petition in March after a 120-day waiting period also required by state law.
Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) and Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) both released statements on Friday, saying now that the waiting period is over, the bust should be removed today.
“I have dedicated years of my life to racial justice and one fact I have learned time and time again: To overcome inequality, we must confront our history. No figure in the modern history of Tennessee better encapsulates this lesson than the bust of KKK grand wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest," Gilmore said in part.
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.