West: Bedford Forrest still in the news

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It's been some 150 years ago, but "news" about Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest seems to be dying down.

The latest development comes from MTSU, where a decision has been reached to drop the name "Forrest Hall" from the university's ROTC building. That decision was reached by an on campus panel which spent several months looking into the issue.

The State Board of Regents, the governing body of MTSU, approved a measure calling for a new name for the structure.

The next step in the process is for MTSU to petition the Tennessee Historical Commission for a name change. A two-thirds vote by the commission is necessary for the change to be made.

The decision allows MTSU to petition the Tennessee Historical Commission to change the name of the building dedicated for Forrest in 1958. The commission must approve the removal of the name by a two-thirds vote for the change to occur.

In petitioning the Board of Regents, MTSU President Sidney McPhee summed up the university's position.

"Would the university of the 21st century make the same decision about the name of the building as we did in the 1950s, the 20th century?" McPhee said. "In 2016, we are a different institution than the 1950s."

Some readers have probably been wondering why The Cannon Courier seems stuck on the Civil War. Well there are numerous reasons; the first being the recent controversy about Nathan Bedford Forrest.

We previously recounted, at length, how Forrest and his men saved the lives of a number of Cannon County citizens who had been taken prisoner by Federal occupation troops in Murfreesboro. Those citizens were scheduled to be executed the following day. Forrest swept in, liberated them and returned them to their families.

We're not sure how many Cannon County citizens were saved by Forrest and his cavalry, but men like James Calvin Carnahan went home to their families. A photo of Carnahan and his descendants was included during the 2015 "Portraits of Cannon County" exhibit at the Arts Center of Cannon County.

This raid from Woodbury to Murfreesboro resulted in a promotion for Forrest.

Later Forrest became enmeshed in controversy first in the Battle of Fort Pillow and then in the rise of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War, but that does not diminish his actions in Woodbury or Murfreesboro.

Forrest was brought back into the news by the Charleston church shooting on June 17, 2015.

During a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 21-year Dylann Roof killed nine people. Roof told authorities he committed the shooting in hopes of starting a race war.

In the investigation that followed, a website apparently posted by Roof, was discovered including several photos of Roof posing with the Confederate battle flags along with symbols associated with white supremacy. That triggered a push to do away with anything associated with the Confederacy, which in turn, included just about anything to do with Nathan Bedford Forrest.

So, after 150 years, Forrest is again "news." That development prompted efforts by some (chiefly politicians) to eradicate anything about the losing side of the Civil War.

In Memphis, this eradication of history reached a fever pitch with city council members wanting to dig up the remains of Forrest and his wife and move them to anyplace other than Memphis.

And so on ..

All of this turmoil has conflicted with the 150th anniversary of the

Civil War. Important lessons from the past have been pushed aside in an attempt to avoid controversy.

And while we aren't immune from controversy, the Cannon Courier has continue to print articles about the Civil War in Middle Tennessee.

I'm glad to report there's still considerable interest in the "news" from 150 years ago.

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Forrest, Mike West Column
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