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Gov. Bill Lee recommends moving Nathan Bedford Forrest bust to Tennessee State Museum

The commission will vote on whether or not to remove the bust Thursday, July 9.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee said he recommended the State Capitol Commission move a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the State Capitol to the Tennessee State Museum.

Proponents and opponents have clashed for months over the bust of Forrest, a Confederate general who also had been a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee. Lee said that by moving the bust to a museum, the state will be able to continue memorializing its history, but in a better context.

"This issue of the Forrest bust that's been going on this state for 40 years is very different than the destructive tide that's swept the nation in recent weeks that's been about defacing property and denying history," Lee said during the conference.

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The State Capitol Commission determines which historical figures are revered in the State Capitol, Lee said. He said he believes the decision to keep or remove the bust should be left to the commission.

During the conference, Lee suggested that the State Capitol may not be the best place to tell the full story behind the bust. He said that the Forrest bust can represent pain for many Tennesseans cause them to wonder why Forrest would belong among the nine figures honored in the capitol.

He said that the bust, in its current location, creates a tension between heritage and symbolism.

"The most appropriate resolution for the bust is to put it in the appropriate context," Lee said. "What I would add now is that the most appropriate way to get full context to this complicated life is to put the bust in the state museum where the very purpose is to see and understand our history."

By placing the bust in a state museum, Lee said people would get a better understanding and a fuller context on Forrest's contribution to Tennessee's history. He also said the decision is ultimately up to the State Capitol Commission. It will vote on whether to remove it on Thursday, July 9.

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