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A TN commission voted to remove a controversial statue. Now, lawmakers want to replace commissioners

Commission voted to remove bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest TN Capitol
Posted at 11:28 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 11:28:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Not even two weeks after the Tennessee Historical Commission voted to remove the bust of Confederate general and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol, state senators are trying to vote to remove all members from the commission.

State Senator Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, sponsored the bill. It would replace all of the members of the 29 person commission with 12 new members.

Currently, 24 of the commissioners are appointed by the governor of Tennessee. Hensley's bill would reduce the total number of members to 12. The governor, lieutenant governor and state speaker of the house would each choose four members.

While not specifically mentioning the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the meeting, members made references to decisions the historical commission has recently made.

The commission voted to remove Forrest's bust from the capitol building on March 8.

Forrest is a controversial figure in the state's history. He was a slave trader, Confederate war general and one of the first leaders of the KKK. His image displayed prominently outside both houses of the legislature has been the center of many protests through the years.

"In our culture today it seems there is a desire to cancel history, cancel culture, cancel narratives that are just based on fact. I think that that's a dangerous precedent," said State Senator Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma.

State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he wouldn't support the bill because it's improper to change the rules when the commission makes a decision some lawmakers don't like.

"That's the process that we created for removing a monument," Bell said. "Every time we get a decision about a monument or a statue that we don't like, then we want to come back and change it again? If we want to put it in our hands, then let's just do a bill to do away with it completely and let the legislature vote on it."

Other legislative leaders said they weren't sure whether or not the historical commission followed the correct path to remove the monument. They're waiting to hear an opinion on the issue from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

This story was originally published by Kyle Horan on WTVF in Nashville.