Bust of Confederate general and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest is wheeled out of Tennessee Capitol and sent to a museum following decades-long debate

 The bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest was officially removed from the Tennessee Capitol Friday, following a decades-long controversy over its placement there.  

A seven-member State Building Commission voted 5-2 Thursday to remove it along with two others - Adm. David Glasgow Farragut and Adm. Albert Gleaves - and relocate them to the Tennessee State Museum.   

However, the push to remove the bust, which was first installed at the Capitol in 1978, has sparked protests and demonstrations.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly refused for years to advance legislation calling for its removal. 

The Nathan Bedford Forrest bust is removed from an alcove in the State Capitol by workers Friday

The Nathan Bedford Forrest bust is removed from an alcove in the State Capitol by workers Friday 

Workers load the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust onto an elevator as it is removed from the State Capitol

Workers load the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust onto an elevator as it is removed from the State Capitol 

The bust was displayed prominently between the House and Senate chambers.

The bust was displayed prominently between the House and Senate chambers.

State troopers stand guard as workers remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the State Capitol and move it the Tennessee State Museum

State troopers stand guard as workers remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the State Capitol and move it the Tennessee State Museum

A flatbed truck hauling the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest, David Glasgow Farragut and Albert Gleaves makes its way to the Tennessee State Museum from the State Capitol Friday

A flatbed truck hauling the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest, David Glasgow Farragut and Albert Gleaves makes its way to the Tennessee State Museum from the State Capitol Friday

Forrest's bust's new home will be the Tennessee State Museum, pictured above

Forrest's bust's new home will be the Tennessee State Museum, pictured above

However, momentum shifted when Tennessee Governor Bill Lee changed his stance in 2020 and called to remove the bust amid national outcry over the death of George Floyd while in police custody. 

Floyd died in May 2020 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes during an arrest, sparking a new push to remove Confederate symbols, including the Bedford Forrest bust.

Lee's position was markedly different than when he first came into elected office in 2018. He had argued that 'the Ku Klux Klan is a part of our history that we're not proud of in Tennessee, and we need to be reminded of that and make certain that we don't forget it. So I wouldn't advocate to remove' the bust. 

'I've said often times I think the removal of monuments is not the best approach to resolving the challenges that are presented with that conversation,' Lee told The Tennessean in late 2018.  


The removal of the bust comes after Governor Bill Lee changed his stance in 2020 and called to remove the bust amid national outcry over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota.

The removal of the bust comes after Governor Bill Lee changed his stance in 2020 and called to remove the bust amid national outcry over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota.

Workers prepare scaffolding in front of a bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest at the State Capitol, Thursday, in Nashville

Workers prepare scaffolding in front of a bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest at the State Capitol, Thursday, in Nashville

A decades-long effort to remove the bust from the Tennessee Capitol cleared its final hurdle Thursday, with state leaders approving the final vote needed to allow the statue to be relocated to a museum

A decades-long effort to remove the bust from the Tennessee Capitol cleared its final hurdle Thursday, with state leaders approving the final vote needed to allow the statue to be relocated to a museum 

'Wiping out history wipes out, also, the history that we're not proud of,' he added. 

In February 2019, Lee announced he was open to the idea of adding historical context next to the bust in the Capitol.    

But in the summer of 2020, Lee decided it was time for the Bedford Forrest bust to go, following a discussion with stakeholders on both sides. 

Tennessee's black legislative caucus also has been particularly vocal about how painful it is to walk by the bust, displayed prominently between the House and Senate chambers, as they carry out their work each day.

'Much like this bust symbolizes the pain and suffering of slavery and terror, removing the likeness of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a place of honor in Tennessee's Capitol is a symbol for much needed reconciliation,' said Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Black lawmaker from Memphis and the Senate's Democratic caucus chairwoman.

Workers dig up the remains of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife June 4 to move the bodies from Health Sciences Park in Memphis

Workers dig up the remains of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife June 4 to move the bodies from Health Sciences Park in Memphis

'No doubt we have work to do to achieve equality and justice for all people, but today's vote shows that progress is possible,' she said.

The bronze Bedford Forrest bust is 44 inches and roughly 3000 pounds. 

Earlier this year, Tennessee's Historical Commission voted 25-1 to move the three busts just north of the Capitol building to the state's museum, noting it was better equipped to furnish the appropriate historical context.

However, the state House's top Republican leaders argued the bust could not be removed without approval from the State Building Commission. 

House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Senate Speaker Randy McNally both expressed disappointment with Thursday's outcome.

'No one is arguing that Forrest is not a problematic figure. He is. But there is more to his story. His life eventually followed a redemptive arc which I hope is outlined in great detail in our state museum,' McNally said in a statement.

In June, the remains of Bedford Forrest and his wife were moved from Health Sciences Park in Memphis to a museum dedicated to the Confederacy 200 miles away.

Bedford Forrest's remains used to be buried under this statue of him at Health Sciences Park in Memphis. The statue, pictured here in 2013, was removed in 2017

Bedford Forrest's remains used to be buried under this statue of him at Health Sciences Park in Memphis. The statue, pictured here in 2013, was removed in 2017

The map above shows the location where Forrest's body was buried in Memphis (left) and the new site in Columbia (right)

Health Sciences Park was a flashpoint for Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year, with many outraged by the monument to Bedford Forrest. Pro-Confederate protesters also showed their support at the site for keeping Bedford Forrest in place. 

When the exhumation finally was carried out, it took several weeks. 

Bust of Confederate general and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest is wheeled out of Tennessee Capitol and sent to a museum following decades-long debate Bust of Confederate general and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest is wheeled out of Tennessee Capitol and sent to a museum following decades-long debate Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 08:42 Rating: 5

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