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Tennessee Capitol Commission Could Add Civil Rights Statue Instead Of Removing Forrest Bust

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

A Republican lawmaker wants a monument representative of the civil rights movement to be erected in the state Capitol.

Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, told the State Capitol Commission Thursday that this is meant to unite Tennesseans who are divided over the Capitol bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“Let us tell the full story so people coming to the Capitol will have an experience that is really a museum experience that tells the full story from Civil War to civil rights and the heroes on both side that we have,” Kumar said.

His remarks were made at a meeting of the State Capitol Commission, the group in charge of deciding whether to remove the controversial bust of Forrest, who was also one of the first Grand Wizards of the Ku Klux Klan.

Kumar said he expects his non-binding resolution (HJR813) to receive bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear if the Capitol Commission will move to resolve the issue. The chairman of the group, Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, said a vacancy needs to be filled up before deciding next steps.

“At this point, today, I can’t give a date,” McWhorter said.

The anti-Forrest bust movement has gained momentum throughout the last two years.

Recently, multiple Republicans have publicly said they believe the bust should be removed and relocated to a museum.

A house joint resolution (HJR686) by Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, tried to replace the Forrest bust with an African American.

The resolution suggested Anne Davis, the third woman elected to the Tennessee General Assembly, and William Yardley, and African American activist and first black person to run for governor of Tennessee, as possible replacements.

But that resolution is likely to stall, since it was rolled to the last committee calendar of the legislative session.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
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