A bill that would eliminate Tennessee’s observance of Nathan Bedford Forrest Day has passed its first challenge in the House.
But that’s the only measure regarding specifically the Confederate general that is moving forward in the General Assembly.
For decades, Tennessee has observed July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. But a bill (HB1670/SB1874) by Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, could end that.
“What it means to Tennessee is that we are going to continue to move forward,” Lamar told reporters Tuesday afternoon, shortly after her measure passed the House Naming Committee. “That we are going to recognize that we don’t have a perfect past, but we can get it right and make the past brighter than it’s been before.”
But, it’s unclear what will happen in the state Senate.
Gov. Bill Lee had pushed for a similar measure earlier this year, but Republicans amended it. The new version of the measure, still backed by Lee, would keep the day but would not require the governor to proclaim it publicly.
However, it is a big win for many Democrats who have been fighting to stop honoring one of the first grand wizards of the KKK. They were able to recruit several Republicans to vote with them — something that was not possible even a year ago.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxvillle, voted for the bill after reminding his GOP colleagues that Forrest was a Democrat.
“The Democrat Party realizes the sins of their past and the racist past, and they want to clean it up,” Dunn said. “Let’s help them.”
A resolution by Dunn that expresses the desire of the legislature to use the second floor of the capitol to honor only elected officials was passed in the same committee. But two measures that explicitly seek the removal of Forrest’s bust out of the second floor of the state capitol failed.