NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Nashville Democratic lawmaker offered some words this weekend to Republican Governor Bill Lee about the state capitol’s controversial bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Rep. Harold Love says he told the governor Saturday “The Capitol Commission needs to meet before we go into session to resolve this. Otherwise, we will bring legislation to fix it.”
The State Capitol Commission is the first stop for such a process to begin, but it’s the same group that narrowly stopped a proposal from previous Governor Bill Haslam two years ago to remove the Forrest bust from the capitol building.
In mid-July Governor Bill Lee said “we need to have a broader conversation” about the bust of Forrest who was revered as a Civil War battlefield tactician, but a slave-trader before the conflict, and an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan after it.
Rep. Love, who is African-American, says his conversation with Governor Lee about the bust took place during the past weekend’s Tennessee State football game where Lee helped officiate the coin toss for the historically black university.
Since he took office in January of this year, Governor Lee has said several times that the Forrest bust “at the very least, needs context,” but during a July interview said, “and maybe more.”
The governor during that interview added “We need to have a broader conversation around that as well and bring in those who are actually responsible for deciding the location of that bust–you know there is a Capitol Commission. I want to convene those folks and move forward.”
Since then the governor has replaced two members of the State Capitol Commission but its not clear how they might vote on removing the Forrest bust.
As of late Monday afternoon, the governor’s office had not indicated if it will bring a petition as former Governor Haslam did before the State Capitol Commission to remove the Forrest bust
By state law, any removal of capitol hill artifacts needs approval as well from the Tennessee Historical Commission, if it were first approved by the State Capitol Commission.
There have been bills to put the bust in the state museum, but those measures did not come up in a committee for a vote.
The Forrest bust has been in the capitol since 1978 after a push from the late Democratic State Senator Doug Henry.