Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives apparently didn’t read the bill they were voting on close enough, as one of their members had slipped in language honoring former KKK leader and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Members of the house had earlier put off a proposal to honor Forrest jointly along with the first African-American elected to the body, but then Rep. Mike Sparks put much of the same language into a resolution to honor Shane Kastler, who wrote about book about Forrest.
The measure was tacked onto a House consent calendar, a usually uncontroversial set of bills and resolutions. The resolution passed 94-0, but now, many lawmakers are upset because its passage officially has the house honoring Forrest.
“He pulled a fast one,” Rep. Johnny Shaw said. “I don’t think I owe any recognition to Mr. Forrest at all. If I could take my vote back, I would.”
However, Sparks refused to apologize, saying that it was not his fault his fellows hadn’t read the bill.
“Well, whose fault is that?” he said. “I can’t speak on 1,500 bills and a myriad of resolutions that come up here.”
Sparks went on further to defend his resolution, saying that it did not shy away from exposing the fact that Forrest had been a slave trader or that he had been tied to the KKK. However, Sparks noted that Forrest had gone on to later renounce the Klan and “became a Christian and stood up for African-Americans.”
Forrest, he said, he been elected honorary grand wizard of the KKK after the end of the Confederacy but publicly denied any involvement and two years later called for them to dissolve because of the violence they espoused.
“If anybody wants to debate this issue, let’s go. Bring 1,000 of them, and I’ll debate them by myself,” he said. “I have something on my side that they don’t have on their side: I’ve got truth.”