A Tennessee Republican Wants to Remove a Statue of a Former KKK Grand Wizard and Replace It With One of Dolly Parton

“If we want to preserve history, then let’s tell it the right way,” says Jeremy Faison.

Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry in 2011. Photo by Timothy Wildey, via Flickr.

In a debate over who ought to be memorialized at the Tennessee state capitol, Dolly Parton has an unexpected champion on her side.

Representative Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Tennessee’s 11th District, is asking why the country singer and songwriter—born in 1946 in Pittman Center, Tennessee—shouldn’t be memorialized instead of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Faison’s call follows several years of heated and sometimes deadly debate over the fate of Confederate monuments on public grounds. Forrest led Confederate troops in the Fort Pillow Massacre, in which hundreds of surrendered Union soldiers, mostly black, were slaughtered. Faison has called for moving the Forrest sculpture to the state museum.

“If we want to preserve history, then let’s tell it the right way,” Faison said, according to the Tennessean. “Right now there are eight alcoves [in the Capitol]. Seven are filled with white men. How about getting a lady in there? My daughter is 16, and I would love for her to come into the Capitol and see a lady up there. What’s wrong with [suffragist] Anne Dallas Dudley getting in that alcove? What’s wrong with someone like Dolly Parton being put in that alcove?”

The statue of Forrest, who made his fortune as a slave trader, was installed in 1978. Supporters have defended the statue, saying that Forrest later advocated for civil rights.

Representative Faison has changed his tune about that statue over the last two years. At one point he supported the memorialization of Forrest, but was later challenged by African-American fellow representative G.A. Hardaway to read the man’s actual writings on race, according to the Tennessean.

The Capitol houses monuments to two Tennessean Presidents: Andrew Jackson (a slaveholder) and Andrew Johnson (the first president to be impeached in the House of Representatives). Also memorialized is Sam Davis, a Confederate soldier executed by Union forces during the Civil War. A statue of Dolly Parton, whose preferred nickname is “the Smoky Mountain Nightingale,” would change the dynamic, to say the least.

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