The Tennessee Capitol Commission voted 7-5 today against moving the bust of Confederate General and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol to the State Museum.
Some critics of the initiative — many of whom were elected officials appointed by the legislature — called it a slippery slope that could lead to removing other monuments placed by elected officials. And said all parts of Tennessee history should be preserved, for educational purposes, even those that were painful or wrong.
Tennessee's Secretary of State, who voted against relocation, said he never used to give the bust much thought when he entered the capitol, which he saw as a building that looked to the state’s future.
But Commission member Howard Gentry, one of the few African-Americans on the panel, said it would be nice if everyone could come into the building and not think about Forrest or anything negative. And reminded his colleagues of other practices that took years to change.
"When I was a little boy and came into the state capitol, there were colored bathrooms and that bothered me, Gentry said. "It bothers me today, it never will leave me. And there were legislative sessions where nobody suggested to take them down, until the time called for it."
Gentry pointed out that the state Capitol is not a museum, but a place where citizens should have the expectation of non-bias and fairness.
The Commission vote came in response to a call by Gov. Bill Haslam, who says he is very disappointed by the panel's decision.