Republican Tennessee governor signs proclamation honoring former KKK Grand Wizard

On Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a proclamation honoring the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and and even declared a day in his honor.

The proclamation pays tribute to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was also became Grand Wizard of the Klan just two years after its founding.

HuffPost reports:

Each year, according to state law, the governor is supposed to sign six such proclamations for days of observation, three of which are in honor of the Confederacy, according to The Tennessean. Though they’re mostly symbolic, the governor says he signs them out of a sense of duty.

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

Not familiar with Nathan Bedford Forrest? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Was a well-known and brutal slave trader.
  • Led Confederate soldiers who committed the Fort Pillow Massacre, in which 300 Union soldiers — 200 of whom were black — were murdered, even though they had laid down their arms and surrendered.

This isn’t the first time that Governor Lee has made excuses for the KKK. Earlier this year, he was asked his opinion on taking down a bust of Forrest from the state capitol, and he remarked:

“The Ku Klux Klan is a part of our history that we’re not proud of in Tennessee, and we need to be reminded of that and make certain that we don’t forget it. So I wouldn’t advocate to remove that.”

While Lee may try to say his hands were tied when it comes to signing the proclamation, that’s not exactly true. He could have refused to do so and demanded that a more fitting historical figure be honored.

And yet, when asked for comment, a spokesperson for the governor had this to say:

“Tennessee governors are required by statute to issue a series of proclamations each year, including Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. The proclamation that was issued complies with this obligation and is in keeping with prior years.”

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie said it best in regard to Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee and the proclamation from Governor Lee:

“Very cool that Tennessee has a day honoring a confederate war criminal and founder of America’s oldest and deadliest terrorist group.”

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