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A resolution to remove a bust of slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest won’t be heard by a state House committee until sometime closer to the end of the year’s legislative session.
Members of the House Naming, Designating, and Private Acts committee approved a motion from Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) to suspend any further votes on the move until the last meeting of that committee later this year.
Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) brought a resolution to the committee last week. It would remove the bust, "replacing it with tribute to a more deserving Tennessean.” After hearing from the state commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a historian last week, the committee decided to hold the vote for one week.
A process for the bust’s removal is set in motion. When the Tennessee Capitol Commission meets on February 20th, they could vote to ask for a waiver to remove the bust from the Tennessee Historical Society. The resolution would not change anything about the process, but Staples told committee members Tuesday it was important.
“I strongly believe that is the Capitol Commission does not have a resolution urging them to make a move or a direction, they will not do it when they meet,” Staples said. “They will not do it and pass on it. Then, we’ll have to do this again.”
Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park
Holt said a resolution was not the only way for committee members to tell Capitol Commission members they want the bust removed. He said they should “approach those members with the Capitol Commission personally, and express your disgust, anger, or concerns.” He said “the most logical thing to do” would be to delay a vote on the resolution to the last committee calendar of the year.
Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) said he felt ‘no pressure of political correctness” over the vote. But it was one of “historical correctness.” He called testimony from witnesses last week “a recreation of fictional history” about Forrest.
Crowds gathered in Health Sciences Park to support the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.
“It’s been made very clear that the man was in command of a massacre,” Mitchell said of Forrest’s command of Confederate troops at nearby Fort Pillow, where some 277 mostly African-American Union troops were killed after they had surrendered.
Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) said that no one in the committee room could “know our history is 100 percent correct.” He said last week’s witnesses gave “very different accounts of this” and that some committee members were “trying to tie this man (Forrest) to something that may or may not be true.”
“We know this is about political correctness and I can’t be part of something like that,” Sexton said.
The committee voted 13-4 to move the bill’s consideration to the end of its legislative calendar.