Tennessee governor says he hopes to change law requiring observance of Confederate leaders

Updated: Jul. 15, 2019 at 4:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Governor Bill Lee says he didn’t like signing a proclamation last week to observe “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.”

In a tweet Monday, the Tennessee governor said he hopes to work with state lawmakers to change the law.

Last week, Lee signed a proclamation to observe “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” July 13. Forrest was a Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

At the time, the governor’s office said that he was required by state law to sign the proclamation but didn’t say whether he thought the law should be changed.

Tennessee Code Annotated 15-2-101 states that the governor must proclaim six days of special observance each year, including Robert E. Lee Day (Jan. 19), Abraham Lincoln Day (Feb. 12), Andrew Jackson Day (March 15), Confederate Decoration Day (June 3), Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, July 13 and Veterans Day (Nov. 11).

The move drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

On Monday, the leader of the NAACP Memphis Branch asked Tennessee legislators to change the law that requires the observance of Confederate leaders. Deidre Malone said the branch’s members "were deeply disturbed” by the proclamation.

“One of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan and a slave trader should not be recognized in this manner," said Malone. "This action by Gov. Lee sends the wrong message to people around the country, puts another stain on Tennessee, and defiles the trust of taxpaying citizens, who have been victimized for generations by the Ku Klux Klan’s violent terrorism of minorities."

Lee said he hopes to discuss changing the law in the next session.

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