The Jury Talks Back


Tennessee Governor Proclaims Day Of Observance For Former Klansman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 1:36 pm

[guest post by Dana]

And to think that in 1921, this was proclaimed a legal holiday:

Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed Saturday as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a day of observation to honor the former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader whose bust is on display in the state Capitol.

Per state law, the Tennessee governor is tasked with issuing proclamations for six separate days of special observation, three of which, including the July 13 Forrest Day, pertain to the Confederacy.

Lee — and governors who have come before him — are also required by state law to proclaim Jan. 19 as Robert E. Lee Day, honoring the commander of the Confederate Army, as well as June 3 Confederate Decoration Day, otherwise known as Confederate Memorial Day and the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Here is the wording on the proclamation:


While Democrats have tried to change law and failed, it’s puzzling that Gov. Lee doesn’t seem interested in making any such effort himself:

“I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven’t looked at changing that law,” Lee said Thursday.

He declined to say whether he believed state law should be changed to no longer require the governor to issue such proclamations or whether he had reservations about doing so.

“I haven’t even looked at that law, other than knowing I needed to comply with it, so that’s what I did,” Lee said. “When we look at the law, then we’ll see.”

A brief overview of Forrest:

Nathan Bedford Forrest, (born July 13, 1821, near Chapel Hill, Tennessee, U.S.—died October 29, 1877, Memphis, Tennessee), Confederate cavalry commander in the American Civil War (1861–65) who was often described as a “born military genius.” His rule of action, “Get there first with the most men,” became one of the most often quoted statements of the war. Forrest is also one of the most controversial figures from the Civil War era. His command was responsible for the massacre of African American Union troops stationed at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in April 1864, and he served as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the early years of Reconstruction.

Sen. Ted Cruz pushed back against the proclamation:

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.

American history is complicated. As a general matter, we shouldn’t be tearing down historical statues or erasing our Founders, even though they were imperfect men. But we should also provide context where we can. And, we shouldn’t be issuing proclamations today honoring Klansmen.



  1. I’m not sure accurate this is, but many have pointed out that this is an annual proclamation that even past Democrat governors have signed. Not that that point excuses this, but it does provide context to the outrage.

    Comment by Sean — 7/13/2019 @ 4:37 pm

  2. Totally agreed this is inappropriate. Honoring Klansmen is not okay.

    So, shall we start with getting Robert C. Byrd’s name off things? Or should we lump all the Democrats who were Klansmen in and do it all at once?

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 7/13/2019 @ 4:41 pm

  3. The issue to me is, aside from this just being inappropriate, is that a GOP governor appears unmotivated to try to change a bad law. He’s a new governor, so what a great way to improving community relations by doing the right thing. Too frequently government is an annoying obstacle and interference in our lives, or unable (for whatever reason) to accomplish designated goals, but this is actually something government could do that would benefit everyone. Maybe except those who don’t have a problem with a Klansman and slave trader being recognized…

    Comment by Dana — 7/13/2019 @ 7:22 pm

  4. I just think there is more to this story, locally in Tennessee, than is being reported in the media. All of the national news stories outlining the Governor’s actions feel like a Chesterton’s fence exercise.

    Comment by Sean — 7/14/2019 @ 7:33 am

  5. Interesting, Sean. Any sources for your belief??

    Comment by Dana — 7/14/2019 @ 3:21 pm

  6. @Dana if other Governors in TN made the same proclamation, again it’s clearly a bad practice and should be killed off, then the better question is what is it with this man that the people of Tennessee across all political divides have liked all these years? Sure the Democrats are now calling it horrible, but from what I’ve read they didn’t seem to care when it was one of their own in the Governor’s mansion signing the same thing. In fact this appears to be codified in Tennessee state LAW:

    According to the Tennessee code, the governor must declare January 19 as “Robert E. Lee Day”; February 12 as “Abraham Lincoln Day”; March 15 as “Andrew Jackson Day”; June 3 as “Memorial or Confederate Decoration Day”; July 13 as “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; and November 11, as “Veterans’ Day.”

    So, again, the question seems to be the wrong one, not why is the Governor doing this, but why the people of Tennessee want days of observance and holiday celebrating not just Forrest, but also Lee, Jackson, and the Confederacy? And, are the democrats that are screaming bloody murder over this only outraged over Forrest or are they also calling for all of those holidays to be stricken from state law?

    Comment by Sean — 7/14/2019 @ 5:03 pm

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