State panel not expected to talk Confederate bust at meeting

Published 9:03 am Monday, December 16, 2019

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee’s Capitol Commission has no plans to address a contentious bust of a former Confederate general and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan when it meets next week for the first time in a year.

Gov. Bill Lee had told reporters in October that he expected the state panel to discuss the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust when he appointed two new members to the commission. The bust has been on display inside the state Capitol for decades, sparking multiple protests and calls for its removal.

Forrest was a Confederate cavalry general who amassed a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader in Memphis before the Civil War.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I’m sure they will consider it,” said Lee, a Republican, at the time.

Lee’s appointees to the 12-member commission were Knoxville talk radio show host Hallerin Hill and Jackson Police Department deputy chief Tyreece Miller, who are both black.

However, on Thursday, Lee’s spokesman Chris Walker said Finance and Administration Department Stuart McWhorter — chairman of the Capitol Commission — called for the meeting to talk about a routine New Year’s Eve event.

The governor may still call a Capitol Commission meeting, Walker said.

Lee has said he supports adding some sort of context around the bust but has not called for its removal.

The last time the Capitol Commission met was in Nov. 2018 to solely discuss the relocation of the tomb of President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah. The year before, the commission voted 7-5 against removing the Forrest bust.

Members include Tennessee’s secretary of state, state treasurer and state comptroller.

The Capitol Commission’s upcoming meeting comes as House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, from Cosby, recently announced he supports removing the Forrest bust and placing it instead in a state museum. Faison had previously opposed removal efforts, but said since learning more about the issue, he changed his mind.

Removing the bust requires approval from the Capitol Commission before going to the state’s Historical Commission as laid out by the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.