Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Declares Day Honoring Slave Trader & First KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a proclamation last Wednesday that declared Saturday, July 13, as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, honoring a confederate general who was the perpetrator of a Civil War massacre, a slave trader and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Forrest Day has been a holiday in Tennessee since 1921, said state legislative librarian Eddie Weeks. Since 1969 the holiday has been honored with a day of observation. In addition to Forrest Day, Tennessee state law requires the governor to declare six other state holidays, including Robert E. Lee Day on January 19 and Confederate Decoration Day on June 3.
In a statement on Thursday, Lee said, “I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that, and I haven’t looked at changing that law.” He also stated that he opposes removing a similarly controversial statue of Forrest from the Tennessee capital, claiming that he doesn’t want to “whitewash” history.
Lee’s decision to continue declaring Forrest Day has sparked criticism from members of both political parties. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) tweeted Friday that “Gov. Lee should be bringing #Tennessee into the 21st century not backsliding into the 19th.”
We should not be honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and the perpetrator of the massacre at Fort Pillow. Gov. Lee should be bringing #Tennessee into the 21st century not backsliding into the 19th.https://t.co/w5RC7sHShx
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) July 12, 2019
Tennessee State Rep. Harold Love Jr. (D) also expressed disappointment in the governor’s action, stating that the continuation of Forrest Day was particularly disheartening as 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship’s arrival in Jamestown, Virginia. Love, who plans to introduce a bill into the state legislature next year to change the law requiring Forrest Day, contested Lee’s statement that he had to do what the old statute said. “What’s the penalty if he didn’t sign it?” Love told The Post on Saturday. “I mean, he’s not going to jail.”
Even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), a longtime opponent of the left, condemned Lee’s actions. “This is WRONG,” he tweeted Friday. “Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) honoring [Forrest]. Change the law.”
This is WRONG. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK. Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) honoring him. Change the law. https://t.co/XBgoRCBoI0
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 12, 2019