Press release from the Democratic Caucus of the Tennessee Senate, June 24:
House, Senate speakers can petition historical commission for removal
NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic Leaders today called for the two speakers to petition for the removal of the bust honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest in the state Capitol.
“Gov. Haslam has shown strong leadership this week in calling for the bust’s removal following the tragedy in Charleston,” Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris said. “We should seize this moment of national reflection and unity to remove divisive symbols from our state Capitol.”
Gov. Haslam was joined this week by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick in calling for various Confederate symbols and memorials to be removed from honored, public spaces.
The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2013 prohibits the removal or altercation of any monument or memorial dedicated in honor of the Civil War, among others. The law allows for anyone exercising control over a piece of public property to petition the Tennessee Historical Commission for a waiver.
“Only those that represent the very best of Tennessee should be afforded such recognition in the halls of state government,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro said. “We can’t and shouldn’t sanitize our history, but we do have a choice about which individuals we honor and elevate as models to school groups touring the Capitol.”
As a city councilman in Mempihs, Sen. Harris sponsored the 2013 city council resolution to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. That prompted state Senate Republicans to pass the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act. The Memphis park was renamed Health Sciences Park before the law took effect.
State Sen. Lee Harris represents District 29 in Memphis and serves as the Senate Minority Leader. Follow the Senate Democratic Caucus on Twitter at @TNSenateDems.
State Sen. Jeff Yarbro represents District 21 in Nashville and serves as Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman. Follow him on Twitter at @yarbro.