Memphis lawmaker likens Nathan Bedford Forrest to Hitler

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2017 file photo, a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest is displayed in the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE - A Tennessee lawmaker on Tuesday likened controversial Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest to a "domestic terrorist" and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as she urged colleagues to repeal a law requiring the state's governors annually declare July 13 "Nathan Bedford Forrest Day."

Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, who is black, cited to the House Naming, Designating, & Private Acts Committee Forrest's role as commander at the infamous April 12, 1864, Fort Pillow massacre in which Union troops, many of them black, were killed trying to surrender.

"The vast majority of these soldiers were African American and, considering the general's behavior before and after this attack, one could assume the attack was made out of a hatred of African Americans," Lamar told the GOP-led committee.

Lamar also said, "now, for some people like myself, this sounds like the work of a terrorist, a domestic terrorist, and it is. When drawing comparisons to the Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest, he is more like Hitler."

She went on to note that "when you think about Hitler and Germany, there are no state holidays for Hitler, there is not a bust in the Capitol building, there's not a state park. There's not any type of recognition."

Lamar's comments came as she discussed her House Bill 1670, which seeks to abolish the official declaration of July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.

But she asked the committee to delay consideration of her bill for two weeks, saying she is working with Republican Gov. Bill Lee's own effort to repeal the requirement he sign the July 13 proclamation.

GOP lawmakers agreed with no comment. That was in sharp contrast to the panel's past two meetings when majority Republicans railed at Democratic lawmakers' efforts to replace the state Capitol's prominently displayed bust of Forrest, a pre-Civil War slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan leader.

During last week's sometimes-contentious committee debate over the Forrest bust, Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, said that while he is admittedly not "much of a historian - I don't know that we have facts about Nathan Bedford Forrest and what he did and what he didn't do."

Sexton said, "I think there's a very slippery slope we get on when we start naming some people as good and some people as bad, because we're all human beings that make mistakes." He also called the effort "PR, we all know that. We know it's political correctness. And I can't be a part of something like that."

Also at last week's meeting, Republicans delayed consideration of the Forrest bust removal bill until after the State Capitol Commission's Feb. 20 meeting. Members are expected to discuss the Forrest bust and hear testimony but take no immediate action.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.