brenda gilmore

Dems call for prompt removal of Forrest bust from state Capitol

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) presides over the chamber on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Democrats are calling for the immediate removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the state Capitol after a 120-day waiting period expired on a Tennessee Historical Commission vote to send it to the State Museum.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE — Exactly one year after a state commission that oversees the Tennessee Capitol voted to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the building’s second floor, Democrats in the Senate are urging state officials to finish the job.

“Our state Capitol should be a place that celebrates the values and causes that unite us as Tennesseans,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis). “It was never a place for Nathan Bedford Forrest and now the day has come for us to finally remove his bust from these hallowed halls — and it should be done without delay.”

The Capitol Commission approved a petition to remove the Forrest bust on July 9, 2020, but a state law, passed by Republicans several years ago to protect Confederate memorials, requires the state Historical Commission to also sign off on any moving any war memorials.

The Historical Commission approved the petition in March clearing the way for the Forrest bust to be taken to the state museum after a 120-day waiting period also required by state law.

The waiting period ended today.

Although the yearlong process to remove the Forrest memorial concluded today, calls to relocate the bronze bust of the enslaver and early KKK leader began to sound the day the piece was installed in the late 1970s.

Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville), who has been a leading voice for removing the bust over her decades of service in the legislature, says state law has been followed and it’s time for the bust to go.

“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,” Sen. Gilmore said. “No figure in the modern history of Tennessee better encapsulates this lesson than the bust of KKK grand wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“If we cannot remove a memorial to an enslaver from our state Capitol, how can we begin to make progress on equitable school funding, fair policing and adequate healthcare for all people?” she said. “Removing this bust today does not usher in racial equality, but it shows progress can be made. And the work of justice will continue.”