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Tennessee panel votes 25-1 to move Confederate bust in state Capitol

The Tennessee Historical Commission voted in favor of moving the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust out of the state capitol building and into the state museum.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee panel voted 25-1 in favor of relocating three busts of military figures located in the State Capitol, including the bust of a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader. 

The Tennessee Historical Commission considered the fate Tuesday of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at a largely virtual meeting alongside two other military figures.

Joanne Moore from West Tennessee was the only member to cast an opposing vote.

Another state panel in July approved the proposal to move Capitol busts of Forrest, Union Navy Admiral David Farragut and Navy Admiral Albert Gleaves to the state museum in order to establish a Civil War exhibit. 

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is thankful for the nearly unanimous vote by the historical commission. Chairman Rep. Antonio Parkinson released the following statement:

"We are grateful to learn of the vote to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the halls of the Tennessee Capitol. Currently, the bust sits in the most prominent location at the Capitol and is viewable by all that visit the Tennessee House and Senate chambers. We thank Governor Bill Lee and all that were responsible for today's actions. While there is more to do, as a caucus we remain optimistic that this will be a great step towards healing divides and closing gaps that exist among the citizens of the great state of Tennessee."

The House Democratic Caucus applauded the vote as well.

"We are one step closer to removing this symbol of hate and oppression," said Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee supported moving Forrest's bust and made six recent commission appointments.

Top GOP legislative leaders are asking the attorney general if the change requires a third panel's approval.

Last year, Tennessee's Capitol Commission voted to move the bust to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, 9-2. Commissioners said that it's important for people to see the state's history in full context, without erasing its context.

"I commend members of the State Capitol Commission for taking up the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust issue and arriving at a thoughtful resolution that provides important historical context for the bust at the State Museum," Lee said after the commission voted. "Scripture implores us to live in peace and unity, and I believe today’s actions reflect this and our commitment to remembering all parts of our past."

The Historical Commission's vote finalizes the decision to move the bust.

Now that the measure has been approved, the next step will be to decide which historic figures will fill the three vacant spaces in the state's capitol. One lawmaker suggested looking at women who made large impacts on Tennessee's history.