NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Seeing crews remove the statue of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest from along Interstate 65 in Southern Davidson County came as a surprise even to those who knew it would happen.
“We had heard that the Battle of Nashville [Trust], which inherited the property, was going to take down the statue. I didn’t know it was going to be this soon,” said Lee Millar, an area spokesperson for The Sons of the Confederate Veterans.
The Battle of Nashville Trust, along with The Sons of Confederate Veterans, was willed the statue following the death of Bill Dorris, the owner of the three-acre private property in Oak Hill.
Since being erected in the late 1990s, the statue has been vandalized multiple times. The most recent was in October of 2020 when the word “monster” was spray-painted on the structure and in 2017 when it was covered in paint.
“I think it’s disgusting that any statue is destroyed,” Millar said.
He, like others who support Forrest’s place in Tennessee history, feel this dismantle along with the removal of a bust of the general from the State Capitol earlier this year further, misrepresents the legacy of a man Millar says was a successful war hero who won most of his battles.
“After the war, he tried to rebuild Tennessee, constructing railroads, hiring Blacks and whites alike to help rebuild the state. And that’s not very well known and needs to be.”
That’s part of Forrest’s story, but it’s another chapter in history that Anthony Hendricks says can’t be ignored. Hendricks is the co-founder and director of The Public, a group out of Franklin that promotes antiracism through education.
When Hendricks looks at the statue, he sees an allegiance to a cause that oppressed African Americans.
“I love the fact that I don’t have to ride down 65 anymore and see this reminder of what people thought about me and my ancestors,” Hendricks said.
Yet, his excitement is short-lived.
“On the other hand, I’m still thinking, does the removal of a statute or the removal of a bust… does the removal of any of these Confederate memorabilia, does it change the hearts and minds of the people?” Hendricks asked.
Pieces of the statue were moved into a storage shed on the property then carted away.
It’s unclear where the monument of the Confederate general will be housed or if it will be on display at a later date. What is clear is the historical value both sides place on Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Battle of Nashville Trust released a statement on why the statue was removed Tuesday.
“This decision was made for several reasons-each reason sets aside the contentious debate about
Forrest as a person or as a Confederate general.”
- Forrest was not present at The Battle of Nashville.
- The statue is ugly and a blight on Nashville.
- It has been vandalized, is in disrepair, and is dangerous.
- Having the statue in such a prominent location in Nashville distracts from the BONT’s
mission and would be and has been divisive in the city we all cherish.
The Trust added Dorris’ estate remains open in the Davidson County Probate Court and no decision has been made regarding the statue’s disposition or location.