NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s top Republican lawmakers contend efforts to remove the bust of an early Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate general from the Capitol require a third level of approval.
A letter last week from House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Senate Speaker Randy McNally to the state architect said Tennessee law mandates the State Building Commission’s sign-off to move Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust. The commission is led by Republican Gov. Bill Lee and also includes Sexton and McNally. It has seven members plus a 4-member executive committee.
The 12-member State Capitol Commission in July recommended that busts of Forrest and Admirals David Farragut and Albert Gleaves be moved to the state museum. Lee suggested the Forrest museum move.
The Tennessee Historical Commission also must approve by a two-thirds margin. A commission official has said the earliest a final vote could happen is February.
Sexton spokesperson Doug Kufner says a legal review found Building Commission approval must precede Historical Commission action. He says the Capitol Commission hadn’t previously approved any monument’s removal under current law.
Gillum Ferguson, a spokesperson for the governor, said his office is reviewing the letter and believes the Capitol Commission followed historical precedent.