NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —A Tennessee panel has moved forward on a final vote to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee Capitol.
The bust of the Confederate general and KKK Grand Wizard still sat in the Capitol, months after a vote to remove it and two other statues. Thursday's vote from the State Building Commission was the final step needed for removal and work is now underway.
The bust will be removed beginning Friday.
While Gov. Lee and others voted yes, Lt. Gov Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton voted no.
"Trying to judge past generations’ actions based on today’s values and the evolution of societies is not an exercise I am willing to do because I think it is counterproductive," Sexton said in a statement. "It is much more productive to learn from our past and not repeat the imperfections of the past. Any attempt to erase the past only aligns society with the teaching of communism, which believes the present dominates the past."
Social activist Justin Jones attended Thursday's vote. Longtime Civil Rights activist Kwame Lillard, who mentored Jones, was the first to stage a protest at the bust when it was first installed in the 1970s.
Jones said Gov. Lee's support of the bust relocation was because of public pressure and says it's time the state moves from focusing on statues to focusing on statutes.
The 120-day waiting period to remove the bust expired on July 9 – nearly two weeks ago.
The Capitol and Historical commissions voted months ago to approve the bust relocation. Lawmakers and commissioners say it was up to the governor to facilitate that move. Gov. Bill Lee’s office said arrangements were being made.
“The people of Tennessee have spoken. They followed the process. Our commissions have spoken and we should honor those voices. To not honor those voices is really really sad and it cast aspersions on our entire system,” Frank Stevenson, a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission, previously told FOX 17 News.
Before the vote, Gov. Lee told reporters, "It's most important to me that we followed the process."
Last month, workers removed the remains of Forrest and his wife from a Tennessee park, marking another step in the process of moving their bodies out of Memphis and to a museum hundreds of miles away. The remains are being moved to the National Confederate Museum at Elm Springs in Columbia.
The remains of Forrest and his wife were moved from a Memphis cemetery and buried under the statue of the former Memphis City Council member in 1904. The city took down the statue in December 2017 after selling the public park to a nonprofit group, thus circumventing a state law barring the removal of historic monuments from public areas.