NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The controversial bill that would rename two-tenths of Rep. John Lewis Way near the Tennessee Capitol for former President Donald Trump is dead for this legislative session after one sponsor withdrew his version of the bill.
Rep. Paul Sherrell (R—Sparta) officially withdrew the House version of the bill (HB1372) Monday, killing any movement on the bill for this legislative session.
The bill drew sharp opposition from local leaders, family members of the late Congressman and more, with representatives from the John R. Lewis Legacy Institute and the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation calling the measure an attempt to “undermine the legacy of Congressman Lewis.”
Michael Collins, the Board Chair for the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation and the late congressman’s chief of staff and floor assistant for 21 years, said the move was “spiteful, mean-spirited, petty, disrespectful, and misguided.”
He pointed out the roadway was renamed for Rep. John Lewis in part because of the lunch counter sit-ins led by Lewis in Nashville, which ignited the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides, as well as gave birth to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, while Trump had no personal connection with the street at all.
High schooler Safiyah Suara hosted a rally in February showing opposition to the bill, coordinating with her mother, Metro Councilwoman At-Large Zulfat Suara, who was instrumental in getting the roadway changed to honor Lewis a few years ago.
“We took a lot of time to do the name change,” Suara told News 2 last month. “We thought about Congressman Lewis’s connection to Nashville.”
Sherrell recently came under fire during a House committee on a capital punishment bill for asking to bring back “hanging by a tree” as part of the bill. He was roundly criticized for the comments, with members of the Black Caucus calling for his resignation. At the very least, they said, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R—Crossville) should strip him of his committee assignments.
Sherrell later apologized to his colleagues on the House floor, saying in part his intention with his comments were to “convey my belief that for the cruelest and most horrendous crimes, a just society requires the death penalty in kind.”
“I sincerely apologize to anyone who I may have hurt or offended,” he said in his statement.
News 2 has reached out to Sherrell’s office for comment.
Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.
You can also find daily coverage from the session here.