Tennessee history

On the history of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust at the TN state capitol

One of the leaders of the successful 1970s effort to place a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee state Capitol building tells Cari Wade Gervin – in one small part of a comprehensive review of that history, including commentary – that race was not a factor.

Kenneth P’Pool, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member who headed the group’s Forrest Bust Committee in 1973 (and who supported George Wallace for president in 1968), teamed with the state Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, and Lanier Merrit, a Civil War expert and collector, in promoting the idea — which quickly became the subject of black protests at the time that have continued today.

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Roundup of TN media reporting on Confederate memorial matters

There is a remarkable amount of media reporting on Tennessee support and/or opposition to Confederate memorials today. Here’s a sampler:

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Alexander, Corker favor moving Forrest bust (and a note on the bust history)

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker say they support moving a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol building to a museum.

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Republican, Democratic guber candidates differ on moving N.B. Forrest bust from TN capitol

None of the five Republican candidates for governor declares support for removing Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the Tennessee state capitol building, reports The Tennessean after posing the question to all of them. Two Democrats running for governor both say the bust should be moved to a museum.

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Protesters urge removal of N.B. Forrest bust; Haslam backs the idea

After demonstrators at the Tennessee state capitol called for removing a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest now housed in the building today, Gov. Bill Haslam issued a statement saying he favors the idea. The protest — like others around the nation — was partly inspired by last weekend’s violent events in Charlottesville, Va., involving protests and counter-protests over removing a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

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Memphis boosts grants to 1968 sanitation strikers to $70K

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to increase the grants going to city workers who participated in the city’s 1968 sanitation strike, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The council voted 10-0 to give the 10 retirees and four active employees $70,000 grants, with all taxes paid by the city. The council voted two weeks ago to approve Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposal to give the strikers all-taxes-paid $50,000 grants.

The council also amended the wording of the grants resolution to allow active employees to collect their grants immediately as opposed to when they retire.

TN employment rate dropped to 3.6 percent in June, lowest rate recorded

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips today announced Tennessee’s unemployment rate for June 2017 was 3.6 percent, the lowest in Tennessee recorded history.

The June 2017 preliminary seasonally adjusted rate surpasses the previous low of 3.7 percent from March 2000. The state has not experienced an unemployment rate below 4.0 percent since it was 3.9 percent in February 2001.

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On setting a state record for campaign spending and candidate self-financing

Nine months before the April qualifying deadline for gubernatorial candidates, those officially seeking the office have already collected $8.4 for their campaigns — $3.4 million through self-funding.

“If we have tight primary races and a tight competitive general election this one could hit $35 or $40 million,” said Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, tells The Tennessean in a report noting the 2018 gubernatorial campaign is shaping up to set a state spending record.

A new state campaign spending record is possible, even probable. But the current state spending records are arguably somewhat higher than the figures cited elsewhere that include only spending by general election candidates, not losers in the primary. It’s a virtual certainty, on the other hand, that the developing gubernatorial races will set a record for self-financing.

 

The most expensive Tennessee political campaign so far was the U.S. Senate race in 2006, won by Republican Bob Corker over Democrat Harold Ford Jr. in the November general election. Corker and Ford combined spent about $34 million with Corker using $4.1 million of personal funds.  Corker’s two primary opponents, Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary, spent about $2.2 million each, so the campaign total was more than $38 million. (Corker’s total was $18.6M; Ford $15.3M.)

The most expensive Tennessee gubernatorial campaign was in 2010, when Bill Haslam defeated two serious Republican primary opponents, followed by a much easier win over Democrat Mike McWherter in November. Haslam spent $16.7 million with $3.5 million in self-financing and McWherter $3.4 million and the overall campaign cost is often pegged at $20 million. But if you add the two GOP primary candidates Haslam defeated, the total was about $27 million. Ron Ramsey spent $3.1 million and Zach Wamp $4 million.

As for the Tennessee record of self-spending by one individual, it’s Corker’s $4.1 million. That’s roughly the same amount of self-spending for all candidates combined in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign — Haslam’s $3.5 million combined with Ramsey’s $200,000 loan to his campaign and Wamp’s $400,000 loan. (Ramsey and Wamp were able to repay their loans; Haslam’s loan has not been repaid.)

Ergo, Boyd is halfway to a record for self-financing with the filing of his first disclosure and Lee is not far behind. Corker and Haslam both waited until much later in their campaigns to put in significant personal money. And if multimillionaire U.S. Rep. Diane Black gets into the gubernatorial campaign race, she can be expected to quickly put in a substantial amount of personal funding in playing catchup against primary opponents who are already traversing the state and planning big advertising efforts.

Note: The Memphis Flyer today has some further musing from an old guy on the gubernatorial campaign HERE, including the suggestion that Boyd is the frontrunner at this embryonic stage of the proceedings. See also previous post listing basic figures from initial filings of candidate campaign finance reports HERE.

Clarence Darrow statue joins William Jennings Brian statue at ‘monkey trial’ courthouse

Start of an Associated Press story:

DAYTON, Tenn. — The Tennessee town known for the famed 1925 “Scopes monkey trial” saw no protesters Friday as it unveiled a statue of the lawyer who argued for evolution near a sculpture of his creationism-advocating legal rival.

About 75 people were on hand at the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton as officials revealed the statue of skeptic Clarence Darrow, who argued for evolution. His likeness stands on the opposite side of the courthouse from a 2005 statue of William Jennings Bryan, the Christian defender of biblical creationism.

Though pockets of opposition to the statue exist due to religious objections, no protesters showed at Friday’s ceremony for the sculpture championed by atheists. Some attendees donned 1920s-era garb for the festivities.

The new statue hasn’t drawn teeming crowds like the ones that forced some 1925 trial proceedings to be moved outdoors. Historians say the trial started as a publicity stunt for the small town, and it succeeded in grabbing plenty of national headlines.

The one small hitch Friday had nothing to do with public backlash — the group had trouble peeling off the black cloth that covered the statue. Former Star Trek actor John de Lancie used an umbrella to help pry it off the Darrow sculpture’s head.

Philadelphia-based sculptor Zenos Frudakis crafted the Darrow statue, funded largely by $150,000 from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The group said the project would remedy the imbalance of Bryan standing alone.

Note: Full story HERE.

Legislative study committee to take a look back at TN lynchings

Tennessee is taking a tentative step toward acknowledging its legacy of lynching and other civil rights crimes, reports WPLN, citing a bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

In all, 238 Tennesseans are documented to have been lynched. The crimes include hangings, beatings and drownings.

State Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, pushed a bill through the legislature this year that creates a study committee of three state representatives and three senators. (Note: It’s HB1306, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris). The group will hash out details — or even if the commission is something Tennessee desires.

Turner has no doubts.

“There are a lot of cases out there — unsolved, civil rights murders,” she says. “It is extremely urgent that we do something now before it becomes too late.”

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