GOP state rep suggests replacing bust of KKK leader in Tennessee Capitol with a statue of Dolly Parton

GOP state rep suggests replacing bust of KKK leader in Tennessee Capitol with a statue of Dolly Parton
Image via Shutterstock.

Republican State Rep. Jeremy Faison told The Tennessean he wants to see the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest moved from the state Capitol to the state museum. Forrest, a Confederate general, slave trader, and Ku Klux Klan leader, is one of seven white men currently honored in Tennessee’s state Capitol building. The bust commemorating him was added to the building in 1978.

“If we want to preserve history, then let’s tell it the right way,” Faison, who is the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, told the paper. “Right now there are eight alcoves (in the Capitol). Seven are filled with white men.”

Faison is far from the first person to suggest it’s time to remove this statue, but Republican Gov. Bill Lee wants to keep these markers because he doesn’t want to “erase history.” Lee’s suggestion is to instead put these memorials into “context.” Interestingly, Faison at one point agreed with the governor but credits Democratic Rep. G.A. Hardaway, a black lawmaker also serving Tennessee, with encouraging him to read Forrest’s words and history, ultimately leading him to change his mind.

The part of the interview that has people on social media talking, however, is who Faison suggested to replace Forrest. “How about getting a lady in there?” He suggested. “My daughter is 16, and I would love for her to come into the Capitol and see a lady up there. What’s wrong with Anne Dallas Dudley getting in that alcove? [...] What’s wrong with someone like Dolly Parton being put in that alcove?”

People on social media are extremely into the idea of Parton, originally from Tennessee and a much-loved music icon, replacing Forrest.

"Hitler has earned his place in history, but they don't put monuments of him in Germany anymore," Faison stressed. "There's plenty of people who are notable characters. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be in a place of honor."

How would the bust actually be removed? Tennessee has a process for handling that scenario. In short, both the State Capitol Commission and the Tennessee Historical Commission would have to vote on it. Faison said he would support passing a resolution.

Over 40,000 people have signed a petition to remove Forrest’s bust from the Capitol, which Pastor Chris Williamson, of Strong Tower Bible Church, and Kevin Riggs, of the Franklin Community Church, plan to bring to the State Capitol Commission on Wednesday.

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