Tennessee lawmakers vote to keep Nathan Bedford Forrest Day

Bill eliminates requirement for Gov. Bill Lee to sign a proclamation, but keeps the honor in place for the Confederate general and early KKK leader

A bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest is displayed in the Tennessee State Capitol Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - Tennessee will continue to mark Nathan Bedford Forrest Day on July 13, but under a bill that won final approval from state lawmakers on Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee will no longer be legally required to sign a proclamation designating the honor for the Confederate general and slave trader.

The measure was approved 22-6 by the state Senate despite efforts by Democrats, whose attempts to eliminate the recognition were quashed by GOP senators who passed the bill.

Previously approved by the House, the measure now goes to Lee, a Republican, who sought the legislation after his mandated signing of the Forrest proclamation during his first year in office last year made state and national news.

Debate over Forrest, whose huge bronze bust occupies a prominent perch outside the House and Senate chambers, has long been an issue in the legislature but it has accelerated in the midst of national protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died last month on a Minnesota sidewalk under the knee of a white police officer.