NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Crews relocated three busts, including Nathan Bedford Forrest, from the state capitol to the Tennessee state museum on Friday morning.
The Tennessee State Building Commission, including Gov. Bill Lee, voted 5-2 on Thursday to remove the busts of Nathan Bedford Forrest, U.S. Admiral David Farragut, and U.S. Admiral Albert Gleaves from the capitol.
The removal of the busts, which weigh up to 3,000 pounds each, started before 8 a.m. The cost of removing the busts will be around $17,000 and is covered by the State Museum.
Forrest was a confederate general, early Ku Klux Klan leader, and slave trader. While the removal of Forrest's likeness from the state capitol is momentous, it was met with little fanfare - as the decision to remove it was announced the day prior. A handful of civil rights activists showed up Friday to celebrate as Forrest's bust was wheeled onto a truck and taken to the museum. For decades, activists had petitioned for it to be removed after it was put up inside the legislature's halls in 1978.
"It's amazing [Black legislators] passed anything for the people with [Forrest] standing and staring down at them," activist Rev. Venita Lewis said. "[This is] amazing, I believe that John Lewis is saying wow."
After several years, the State Building Commission voted on Thursday morning to remove the controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the Tennessee State Capitol.
"Although it is important to respect tradition we do need to understand and respect the feelings of those who are offended," Nashville resident Casey Cook said. Cook agrees with the sculpture's removal and says it belongs in a museum.
Others have expressed their disappointment in the bust's removal. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally responded to the building commission's decision to remove the statue Friday.
"I believe that context is needed, but not removal," McNally said. "No one is arguing that Forrest is not a problematic figure. He is. But there is more to his story. His life eventually followed a redemptive arc which I hope is outlined in great detail in our state museum."
McNally also expressed that "No figure honored on the capitol grounds or across this state could stand up to modern scrutiny."
Many have expressed gratitude for the removal of the bust from the Capitol on Friday. Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus said "While this move signifies a great first step in beginning to heal our divided state, we understand that this is a sensitive matter to some and a symbolic victory to others."
The state museum tells News 4 all three sculptures will be on display next week, starting Tuesday.