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Bid to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from state Capitol fails in House committee

Knoxville lawmaker Rick Staples prepared a resolution seeking to switch out the bust to another Tennessean, such as a historic figure from East Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee House committee voted down a bid Tuesday by a Knoxville lawmaker to remove a much-debated statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol.

The measure failed 11-5 in the Naming, Designating and Private Acts Committee.

Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, sponsored the resolution.

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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. In another sign of the debate, the remains of he and his wife likely will be moved from a Memphis park to another location, WMC-TV has reported.

The bust has been at the Capitol since the late 1970s. From the beginning, the resolution states, "the Forrest bust has been the subject of debate and protest, and its presence in the State Capitol continues to be a divisive issue among Tennesseans."

Staples' resolution suggested others for whom a bust could be placed in Forrest's spot including Anne Davis, an early supporter of creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and William F. Yardley, a Knoxville lawyer and the first black man to run for governor of Tennessee in the 1870s.

The House committee has been mulling the resolution since January.

If the resolution had passed, both the Capitol Commission and Tennessee Historical Commission would still have needed to approve the plan, according to WSMV.

In a separate measure, Gov. Bill Lee is asking state senators to relieve him of having to recognize a special day in Forrest's honor every July. House members, including the Naming Committee, have endorsed it.

By law he or any Tennessee governor currently in office is required to sign a proclamation every year recognizing Forrest.

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