The Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) voted overwhelmingly in favor of removing the busts of Nathan Bedford Forrest, David Glasgow Farragut and Albert Gleaves. The only member to vote against the measure was Commissioner Joanne Cullom Moore. The commission convened on Tuesday for a final hearing on the three busts. The final hearing was scheduled to take place last month originally, but was delayed due to the winter storm. Judge Kim Summers presided over the hearing. The meeting convened around 10 a.m. CST. Public comment lasted around three hours.
Public commentary focused on Forrest’s bust, by and large ignoring the busts of Farragut and Gleaves. Summarily, those in favor of removing Forrest’s bust stated that the general was a racist and a White supremacist. The only public commentary to mention Farragut and Gleaves came from those against relocation. One of Forrest’s descendants, Edward Smith, relayed information that there wasn’t enough room and humidity issues at the state museum or the military branch for the three busts.
“This is not about emotion, this is about the law and what the law requires,” stated Smith. “What I believe there is a viewpoint [discrimination.] I fall back on the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson: knowledge is the common property of all mankind. We should learn about the good and the bad and the ugly of American history.”
As The Tennessee Star reported previously, Farragut and Gleaves were selected alongside Forrest for removal in order to create an exhibit honoring military heroes in the state museum – not because they were contentious.
During final remarks preceding the vote, THC Chair Derita Coleman Williams asserted that there is a compelling public interest of the historical significance and consideration for relocating these busts. She added that the full history of these busts would be conveyed best within the state museum, and noted that the busts are already considered within the museum’s collection.
THC reported receiving approximately 700 comments in favor of removing the Forrest bust, and only around 20 against it.
After the hearing, a spokesperson for Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) stated that he believed the commission acted outside of the law in its decision.
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