NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The next step in the removal of a Confederate general’s bust from the Tennessee State Capitol building may not take place until October.
That word was re-affirmed Friday by a spokesperson for the Tennessee Historical Commission which now takes up the bust recommendation passed by the Tennessee Capitol Commission on Thursday.
That recommendation would send the Forrest bust and the nearby second-floor Capitol building busts of Union Admiral David Farragut and Spanish-American War Admiral Albert Gleaves to the Tennessee State Museum.
“We are willing to take that on, but I think we need to appropriately plan,” said Tennessee State Museum Executive Director Ashley Howell at the Capitol Commission meeting.
One of those who is on the Tennessee Historical Commission is Governor Bill Lee.
He made the initial Forrest proposal to the Capitol Commission before the other busts were added to the relocation recommendation.
The governor is joined by four other permanent Tennessee Historical Commission “ex-officio” members that include the State Historian, State Archaeologist, Tennessee Commissioner of Environment and Conservation, and the State Librarian and Archivist.
There are also 24-private citizens appointed by a governor to a five-year term on the Tennessee Historical Commission. The members come from what’s called the “grand divisions of the state” representing East, Middle and West Tennessee.
While the 9-2 Capitol Commission vote was decisive, some there spoke in favor of keeping the bust in its present location in an alcove between the Tennessee House and Senate chambers.
A state senator offered his version of the Forrest history.
“Different sides have different stories,” said Dr. Joey Hensley who represents a rural Middle Tennessee district. “Forrest was in the Ku Klux Klan, but he was not a Grand Wizard and he got out of the Klan when they started committing violence.”
Senator Hensley added that “When I see the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest. I think of my great-great-grandfathers who fought for the Confederacy.”
A Rutherford County Republican lawmaker at the Capitol Commission meeting decided he would talk directly to Governor Lee who was sitting a few feet away after making his presentation.
“Sadly governor, it ain’t going to end with this bust. It’ll be something different. They’ll come up with something more,” said Representative Mike Sparks.
During his long testimony, the lawmaker wondered if the statues on Tennessee Capitol Hill property of President Andrew Jackson or Confederate hero Sam Davis would be next.
Expect those arguments to be heard again as the fate of the Confederate General’s bust will at some point come before the Tennessee Historical Commission. The two “no” votes to move all three Capitol Hill busts came from the two GOP legislative members on the commission.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson said he voted the will of his 33-members. He indicated that 19-of them were against moving the Forrest bust. East Tennessee Republican Representative Matthew Hill was the other “no” vote.