Tennessee State Building Commission Votes to Remove Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Bust



Tennessee’s State Building Commission voted Thursday to remove Confederate Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the State Capitol building. 

The statue will be relocated to the Tennessee State Museum, along with the busts of Admirals David Farragut and Albert Gleaves.

Governor Bill Lee (R), Secretary of State Tre Hargett (R), state Comptroller Jason Mumpower (R), state Treasurer David Lillard (R) and Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley voted in favor of removing the busts. Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and state House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) voted against removal.

The five-to-two vote to take the three statues down was broadly anticipated. Both McNally and Sexton stated their opposition to removal ahead of the vote. 

Last July, Lee came out in favor of taking the busts out of the Capitol. The State Capitol Commission then voted to do as the governor hoped they would. As the Tennessee Star then reported, Farragut and Gleaves’ statues were originally slated for removal along with Forrest’s principally to create a state museum exhibit recognizing military heroes.

Last March, Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) voted to relocate the Forrest, Farragut, and Gleaves statues to the museum.

McNally issued a statement Thursday explaining that, although he deplores the actions for which Forrest is most widely known, he believes more thorough explication of Forrest’s story around his statue would serve historical reflection better than relocation.

“No one is arguing that Forrest is not a problematic figure,” McNally said. “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.”

Some who argued for removal have made clear they see it as part of a broader political agenda.

“We know that what comes next is taking down the policies that that symbol represents,” left-wing Nashville activist Justin Jones told reporters after the vote. “What I’ve always told people … is that that symbol for us was a symbol just like those ‘colored’ and ‘white’ signs that say ‘you are not welcome here,’ that ‘you are not equal here. … And so we brought the symbol down, but what it represents is still up, and that’s what we’re going to continue to organize around.”

Jones, who briefly ran for Congress against incumbent Jim Cooper (D-TN-5) in 2020, equated the government’s declining thus far to completely socialize the healthcare industry with past denial of civil rights. He said he and other progressive activists should feel motivated to pursue change in that and other areas of social policy. 

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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].





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14 Thoughts to “Tennessee State Building Commission Votes to Remove Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Bust”

  1. Don

    Yep, another stupid decision made by Leftist. Collectively a pretty ignorant bunch. No, that is being too kind—stupid is the correct term.

  2. Ron W

    This is craven appeasement to grotesque prejudice and bigotry based on willful, abysmal historical

    Forrest’s speech during a meeting of the “Jubilee of Pole Bearers” is a story that needs to be told. Gen. Forrest was the first white man to be invited by this group which was a forerunner of today’s Civil Right’s group. A reporter of the Memphis Avalanche newspaper was sent to cover the event that included a Southern barbeque supper.

    Miss Lou Lewis, daughter of a Pole Bearer member, was introduced to Forrest and she presented the former general a bouquet of flowers as a token of reconciliation, peace and good will. On July 5, 1875, Nathan Bedford Forrest delivered this speech:

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.

    I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.” (Prolonged applause.)

    End of speech.1

    Nathan Bedford Forrest again thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875, but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the general and the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens of Memphis.

    J.H. Sears, Charles Kelly Barrow “Black Southerners In Confederate Armies” (Pelican, 2007)

  3. william delzell

    Good riddance! Put it in a museum’s Hall of Shame where it belongs!


    Another in a long line of capitulations to the members of the grievance industry. Is there no one in government who will say “NO” to them? Mark Steyn says it all when he says “Unless you’re prepared to surrender everything, surrender NOTHING.”

  5. 83ragtop50

    Another strike against Lee. For some unknown reason I thought he was from Tennessee. Apparently not. Or maybe he does not have enough backbone to stand up to the “woke” crowd.

  6. Turbo

    Lee forcing his decision on the state of Tennessee. obviously he does not care much about Tennessee history.

  7. Bob

    Tennessee State Building Commission Votes to Remove Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Bust
    Tennessee’s State Building Commission voted Thursday to remove Confederate Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the State Capitol building. The statue will be relocated to the Tennessee State Museum, along with the busts of Confederate Admirals David Farragut and Albert Gleaves.
    Farragut was a UNION Navy Flag officer, as was Gleaves. Also Admiral Gleaves was only born in 1858.

  8. jamesb

    I really got to say I have no opinion on Forrest. I was not alive during his time but that bust is about the ugliest thing I have seen and i doubt the general would approve of the ugly thing.

  9. Dr Ken

    While books can be burned, while statues and busts can be removed, history cannot be erased or changed.

  10. M. Flatt

    Did we have to bring up Justin Jones? Really? That’s a person that needs to be restrained from the public view.

    As far as Forrest goes, the man did quite a bit more after 1865, but the Narrative must have him sacrificed for his Antebellum persona.

    Now that proper process has been give to remove the bust of Forrest, I suggest we replace it with the bust of Dolly Parton!

  11. Ms Independent

    I’m sick and tired of this story! There are far more important issues that need attention!

  12. David Blackwell RN, BSN, CCM

    Good, because we will need to make room for the new secessionist. It’s brewing. We need a State Silver Bank and team up with out Musicians to ask when Fans come to Tennessee to hear our Music that they pay in United Stated Silver Dollars!

    1. Ron W

      “United States Silver Dollars” reminds me of President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 executive order to the Treasury Dept to issue “United States Notes” backed by silver,a move to restore Constitutional money and end the Federal Reserve banking cartel in the U.S.
      IMO, it’s one of the reasons he was assassinated 5 months later.

    2. T

      Make that room! I will gladly support secession & proudly serve.