Photo: Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust at Tennessee State Capitol
Photo Credit: CC / Background: Joey Rozier / CC
***Updated July 23, 2021***
The State Building Commission voted on Thursday, giving final approval for the relocation of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Capitol to the Tennessee State Museum. The process took over a year to complete after Governor Bill Lee said that it needed to be moved.
Lee spoke prior to the meeting.
“it’s been a year long journey, and this is an appropriate step in that process. It’s most important to me that we followed the process. We talked about that from the very beginning,” Lee said.
Just after the meeting, crews prepared for the removal, and it is expected to be moved on today, July 23rd.
Original story -Published July 22, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
After years of controversy, the bust of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest is set to be removed from the state Capitol later this week.
The State Building Commission will vote this morning (July 22) to confirm the removal. Sources say Governor Bill Lee has arranged for the bust to be moved to the Tennessee State Museum by the end of the week, if that vote comes back in favor of the removal.
The governor’s office has not yet made an announcement about the removal, but they have scheduled a news conference to be held before the Building Commission meeting this morning.
Earlier in the month Casey Black, spokesperson for Lee’s office, released a statement saying, “We are working to determine next steps and will provide updates accordingly. Our plans have not changed.”
The bust, which was placed in the Capitol in 1978, has come under fire in recent years with critics arguing that a place of honor should not be given to someone who was affiliated with slave trading and the Ku Klux Klan.
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Last year, Governor Lee stated that he was in favor of relocating the bust, saying it would be better placed in a location where it would have “context.”
“Forrest represents pain and suffering and brutal crimes committed against African Americans, and that pain is very real for our fellow Tennesseans,” Lee stated.
Law stipulated that the governor must wait 120 days after the March vote to relocate the statue. That time period ended on July 9.
Governor Lee serves as the chairman of the Building Commission, but he does not typically attend the routine meetings. He is expected, however, to show up for the meeting on Thursday.
It is expected that the vote to approve the relocation will pass. Lee’s vote could serve as a tiebreaker if needed.
Originally, Lee’s office planned to only have the Capitol Commission and the Tennessee Historical Commission vote on the issue. However, Lt. Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton argued that state law required that the Building Commission also vote for its removal.
McNally, a Republican from Oak Ridge, has opposed the bust’s removal from the Capitol but has not given any indication that he will go any further to prevent it. Other lawmakers who will be casting a vote on Thursday have had changing opinions throughout recent years.
“Due to shifting public positions of many who will be voting on Thursday, Lt. Governor McNally hesitates to speculate on the outcome,” said spokesperson Adam Kleinheider.
The comment refers to Secretary of State Tre Hargett, state Treasurer David Lillard, and now-retired comptroller Justin Wilson, who all changed their votes between 2017 and 2020. They originally voted against the removal in a 2017 Capitol Commission vote but voted in favor of it in 2020. The new Comptroller, Jason Mumpower, is expected to vote in favor of the removal.
Lee’s office says, “This final step will ensure there is no room for doubt in the process. The goal has not changed, and guidance on next steps will be provided at the end of the week.”
Along with the Forrest bust, the state will also move the busts of U.S. Admirals David Farragut and Albert Gleaves. The current plan is to create a military exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum.
About the Author:
Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative
Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com