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Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Bust Can Officially Be Removed From Tennessee Capitol, But No One Is Sure

Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust
Chas Sisk
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The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee State Capitol.

The bust of confederate general and KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest could technically be removed from the state capitol Friday, but instead it is caught in a sort of legislative hot potato.

People have been pushing for years for the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed, and finally made progress on that mission in March 2020, when the state Historical Commission voted to pass the bust off to the Tennessee State Museum. There was a required 120 day waiting period, which expired on July 9.

Yet the museum says they are still awaiting instructions.

One complication is the State Building Commission, which oversees Tennessee’s public buildings, is still working to determine next steps.

Adam Kleinheider is a spokesman for Senate Speaker and Building Commission member Randy McNally. Kleinheider says he anticipates the commission will take up a vote on the bust at a scheduled July 22 meeting.

A spokeswoman for commissioner Butch Eley says the agenda for that meeting hasn’t been set yet.

The confusing fate of the bust is a result of the state’s Heritage Protection Act, which makes it arduous to remove or relocate statues and monuments. And it is especially complicated when the monument in question is at the State Capitol.

The bust was originally approved by the legislature in 1973, in the years following the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

In total, Tennessee is home to more than 100 Confederate symbols, according the the Southern Poverty Law Center, including at least 43 monuments, more than 40 highways or roads and several parks.

Copyright 2021 WPLN News. To see more, visit WPLN News.

Paige Pfleger is a reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.
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