NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — About three dozen prominent businesses with a Tennessee footprint are calling for the bust of a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader to be removed from the state Capitol.
In a letter Monday to Republican Gov. Bill Lee, companies ranging from FedEx to Volkswagen urge the Tennessee Historical Commission to cast a final vote that would remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the Capitol.
At Lee’s guidance, the State Capitol Commission voted last week to recommend the bust be moved to the state museum. But the Historical Commission still needs to finalize the move by a two-thirds margin vote. That commission also may not meet for several more months.
“As leading businesses and corporations in the state, we recognize our obligation to stand for equality and justice — not just for our employees, but for all Tennesseans,” the letter states. “Honoring those who propagated racism and prejudice only serves to further divide our communities and reinforce inequities in our society.”
The Capitol Commission also suggested that busts of David Farragut, a Union military leader, and U.S. Navy Admiral Albert Gleaves be moved from the Capitol to the state museum as well, with state and federal officials honored instead in the Capitol.
Some of the other businesses that signed onto the letter include Google; CoreCivic; Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Cracker Barrel; Bridgestone; HCA Healthcare; UBS; Belmont University; AllianceBernstein; Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee; Eastman Chemical; Nashville SC soccer team; and Pilot Company.
Forrest was a Confederate cavalry general who amassed a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader in Memphis before the Civil War. His involvement with the Klan came after the war.
The bust was unveiled in 1978. The symbol has sparked multiple protests demanding its removal over the years.