Prodded by Haslam, panel schedules meeting on Forrest bust

The State Capitol Commission, one of two state government entities that must approve the removal Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from inside the Tennessee capitol building,  has scheduled a special meeting for Friday.

Notice of the Sept. 1 meeting — posted on Friday, Aug. 25 — doesn’t provide an official agenda. But it says, “Per the resolution of the Commission, a subcommittee was established for the purpose of developing a process for evaluating the characteristics of Tennesseans who should be honored in the Capitol Complex and other processes regarding the management of the collection.”

The Times Free Press reports that language was added to the notice — which initially gave no indication of the reason for the meeting — after inquires over the weekend. The newspaper also notes the notice was posted one day after Gov. Bill Haslam renewed his call to remove the image of Forrest, a Tennessee native considered a brilliant Confederate military strategist but whose past as a slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan leader make him controversial.

…”This unfortunately won’t be as quick as some would like it, including me,” Haslam told reporters Thursday. “But that is the process. I am encouraging the Capitol Commission and [Tennessee] Historical Commission to meet as quickly as prudently possible.”

Both panels must approve changes to statues, paintings and other historic artifacts at the state Capitol. The process starts with the State Capitol Commission, chaired by Larry Martin, Haslam’s finance commissioner.

… Many of the Capitol Commission seats are held by Haslam Cabinet members or special appointees, but the much-larger state Historical Commission members also have to sign off by a two-thirds majority.

That margin was inserted in a bill passed by House Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel, a Civil War re-enactor active in preservation issues, after Charleston’s deadly shootings and efforts to remove a Forrest statue in Memphis. The commission blocked the Memphis City Council from taking down the statue.

McDaniel, of Parkers Crossroads, said Sunday he didn’t know the matter would be coming before the Capitol Commission and he noted the panel “has to follow the law like any other government entity.”

“I see him as one of Tennessee’s outstanding military figures and that’s the reason he was placed there,” McDaniel said of the Forrest bust, noting he believes it should remain “until someone can give good reason why he shouldn’t be there.”

UPDATE: After this post, the website was updated with an agenda. No. 1 item on the agenda list: “Governor’s request to relocate Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue.”

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