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Bill That Would Eliminate Nathan Bedford Forrest Day Heads To Vote In Tennessee House

Tennessee lawmakers have again rejected efforts to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol, but a House committee has voted to end the state's annual commemoration of the Confederate general.
Chas Sisk / WPLN News
Tennessee lawmakers have again rejected efforts to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol, but a House committee has voted to end the state's annual commemoration of the Confederate general.

 

Tennessee lawmakers have again rejected efforts to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol, but a House committee has voted to end the state's annual commemoration of the Confederate general.
Credit Chas Sisk / WPLN News
Tennessee lawmakers have again rejected efforts to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol, but a House committee has voted to end the state's annual commemoration of the Confederate general.

A bill that would eliminate Tennessee’s observance of Nathan Bedford Forrest Day has passed its first challenge in the House.

But that’s the only measure regarding the Confederate general that is moving forward in the General Assembly.

For decades, Tennessee has observed July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, but a bill (HB1670/SB1874) by Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, could end that.

“What it means to Tennessee is that we are going to continue to move forward,” Lamar told reporters Tuesday afternoon, shortly after her measure passed the House Naming Committee. “That we are going to recognize that we don’t have a perfect past, but we can get it right and make the past brighter than it’s been before.”

It’s unclear what will happen in the state Senate.

Gov. Bill Lee had pushed for a similar measure earlier this year, but Republicans amended it. The new version of the measure, still backed by Lee, would keep the day but would not require the governor to proclaim it publicly.

However, it is a big win for many Democrats who have been fighting to stop honoring one of the first grand wizards of the KKK. They were able to recruit several Republicans to vote with them — something that was not possible even a year ago.

Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxvillle, voted for the bill after reminding his GOP colleagues that Forrest was a Democrat.

“The Democrat Party realizes the sins of their past and the racist past, and they want to clean it up,” Dunn said. “Let’s help them.”

A resolution by Dunn that expresses the desire of the legislature to use the second floor of the capitol to honor only elected officials was passed in the same committee. But two measures that explicitly seek the removal of Forrest’s bust out of the second floor of the state capitol failed.

This story was reported by WPLN

Copyright 2020 WKNO

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.