Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue
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Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue

Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue is a statue, standing 25 feet (7.6 m) in height, of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest on a horse, shooting behind himself, flanked by Confederate battle flags near Interstate 65 at 701D Hogan Road, Nashville, Tennessee.[1]


The monument was designed by Jack Kershaw, a Vanderbilt University alumnus, co-founder of the League of the South, a white nationalist and white supremacist organization, and a former lawyer to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's killer.[2] In the face of public criticism of the installation, Kershaw defended the statue by saying, "Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery."[2]

Statue owner and friend of Kershaw Bill Dorris told NPR in 2011 "As an artist, mediocre. As a thinker, he (Kershaw) was way ahead of a lot of people in his time." Dorris described the process of sculpting Forrest: "Jack got some materials that I use to make bathtubs with. And he started with a butcher knife. That's the end result that you see out there right now."[3] Kershaw told an interviewer that his Forrest is crying: "Follow me!"[4] The horse is covered in gold leaf, while Forrest is covered in silver leaf. At 25 feet tall, they are twice life size and the rider is "perfectly balanced".[5] Forrest holds a gun, pointed behind him, in his left hand, and a sword in the right hand.

Location and dedication

It was installed in 1998 surrounded by 13 Confederate Battle Flags and 13 flag poles flying various other Confederate or state flags on 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) of land privately owned by Nashville businessman Bill Dorris.[6] The property at 701D Hogan Rd is long and narrow, with the Interstate on one side and railway tracks on the other.[3]

The monument is visible from Interstate 65 by the northbound shoulder near mile marker 77 between exit 74 and 78 south of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Around the time the statue was installed, the state cleared vegetation to make it more visible from the Interstate, thanks to the efforts of then-State Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville).[7]

The statue was dedicated by the Joseph E. Johnston Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who invited "40 other SCV camps, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and 10 re-enactment groups in period dress."[8] The SCV camp calls it one of its most ambitious project they have done and notes the additional sponsorship of The Southern League and Mary Noel Kershaw Foundation[5]

Efforts to hide or remove

The controversial statue has been shot at more than once, vandalized regularly over the years and more recently defaced with Black Lives Matter slogans, but always repaired.[9][10] Protestors even tried to pull it down by tying it to a train.[11] It is protected by a padlocked gate.

In July 2015 Nashville's Metro Council sought permission to plant landscape screening in front of the monument, but the request was denied by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.[7]

The statue was criticized by then-councilwoman (former mayor) Megan Barry in the wake of the 2015 Charleston church shooting, as "an offensive display of hatred that should not be a symbol for a progressive and welcoming city such as Nashville."[6]

Governor Haslam said "It's not a statue that I like and that most Tennesseans are proud of in any way," in 2015.[12]

On August 15, 2017 the mayor of nearby Oak Hill, Tennessee Heidi Campbell wrote an open letter to Governor Haslam urging the statue be obscured with landscaping.[13]


Just after the unveiling in 1998, Blueshoe Nashville noted that newspaper coverage showed support for and dismay against the statue generally followed racial lines. It also critiqued the statue's quality, remarking that "Anyone seeing the crazed, pop-eyed look on the statue's face might wonder if the memorial is a homage, or a savage put-down."[14]

In 2006, local blogger Brent K. Moore wrote Forrest "has an expression that one makes after sitting on a thumb tack."[6]

In 2015, The Washington Post called it "the weirdest Confederate statue in existence" and found the statue to have "a cartoonish and inadvertently satirical tone, incorporating elements of fiberglass and foil-candy wrapper coloring". The Post called the horse a "golden steed that looks like it was ripped from a merry-go-round for giants."[6]

In June 2015 Gawker described the "alarming" statue as being created by a "fierce racist... for another bad man. The statue is so hilariously stupid that we should keep it forever" for it "perfectly honors the Confederacy."[15]

A November 2015 article entitled 7 Controversial & Offensive Tourist Attractions In The U.S. described the installation as the "ugliest" statue of Forrest and noted it is "surrounded by an overwhelmingly large display of numerous Confederate flags"[9]

Rachel Maddow on MSNBC described it has having "terrifying marble blue eyes" and a "mouth like a circular saw".[16]

Comedian Stephen Colbert first quoted President Trump's tweets about preserving the beautiful monuments in the wake of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia then immediately mocked this statue by saying "apparently the Confederacy was founded by skirt-wearing nutcrackers riding wet lizards" and by mimicking the pose, shooting invisible soldiers following Forrest and riding an imaginary horse around the stage.[17][18] Similarly, comedian John Oliver referred to the statue as being "objectively terrifying regardless of context", describing the statue's face as looking "like if a nickel did cocaine".

In 2017 Slate called the statue the "Confederacy's Dumbest Monument.[19]

Atlas Obscura called it "One Confederate statue that accurately reflects the uglyness of its subject."[20]

In an article titled The 10 Most Terrifying Public Statues Artnet news wrote the "statue (is) alarmingly racist, to say that it is also poorly done is a gross understatement"[21] while Shareart lead The 10 Most Bizarre Public Sculptures with this effort.[22]

Salon described the statue as something "fashioned by someone who's had a human described to him but has never actually seen one in real life."[23]

The Independent went with a simple "stupid, racist statue" and called for its removal.[24]

Canada's National Post called the "towering eyesore" "one of the most vile Confederate monuments in the great state of Tennessee."[25]

In late December 2017, the statue was vandalized with pink paint.[26]

Bill Dorris

The owner of the statue and the land it sits on, Bill Dorris, is a Nashville lawyer and businessman. He has regularly given media interviews defending his right to display the Forrest statue and his flags. Dorris denies being a racist. He calls slavery a form of "social security" for African Americans.[10]

Dorris has "turned down requests from the KKK to hold rallies" at the site.[27] Dorris also argued removing the statue would be detrimental to Nashville's tourism industry, and he compared it to historic plantations in the Nashville area like the Travellers Rest, The Hermitage, the Belle Meade Plantation.[8]

When the Metro Region suggested adding vegetation, Dorris told WPLN that "I've got some 1,800-foot flagpoles. I could put them up starting tomorrow. They're going to have to build a helluva wall and a helluva bunch of trees to block all that."[10]

Dorris told Canada's National Post paper the people against Confederate monuments in New Orleans are "cane blacks," who were probably "illegals to start with." Dorris also said ""Slavery was never an issue. Nathan Bedford Forrest was not a racist" [28] and again called slavery a form of "social security" for African Americans, "a cradle-to-the-grave proposition."[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Google Maps". Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (September 24, 2010). "Jack Kershaw Is Dead at 96; Challenged Conviction in King's Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Statue Of Civil War General Forrest Still Draws Fire : NPR". Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ Watson, H.L.; Neal, J. (2014). Southern Cultures: Volume 20: Number 4 - Winter 2014 Issue. University of North Carolina Press. p. 73. ISBN 9781469615967. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Nathan Bedford Forrest Equestrian Statue". Retrieved 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e Holley, Peter (June 25, 2015). "The 'terrifying' Confederate statue some Tennesseans want to hide". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ a b "State denies Nashville's request to block I-65 Forrest statue". Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ a b Garrison, Joey (June 23, 2015). "Forrest statue land owner fires back at blocking efforts". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ a b "The Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue Vibe". Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ a b c "Owner Of I-65 Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue Defiant Over Calls To Block View". Nashville Public Radio. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ "This Is the Worst Confederate Statue We’ve Ever Seen". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ "Metro Council asks state to block view of I-65 Forrest statue". Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ "Conceal Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from I-65". Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ Cheryl Hiers for "Nathan Bedford Forrest: Nashville Statue Raises Controversy". Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ "Alarming Statue of a Racist and Horse Perfectly Honors The Confederacy". Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ "Southern states seek removal of Confederate symbols". MSNBC. Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ Dessem, Matthew (August 19, 2017). "Watch Stephen Colbert's Impression of the Confederacy's Dumbest Monument". Slate. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Stephen Colbert takes on Tennessee’s Nathan Bedford Forrest statue". Retrieved 2017.
  20. ^ "Ugly Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue - Nashville, Tennessee". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "The 10 most bizarre public sculptures - Art news and events by shairart". Retrieved 2017.
  23. ^ "10 confederate memorials that are somehow still standing". Retrieved 2017.
  24. ^ "Perhaps America should pull down this stupid, racist statue as well as the Confederate flag". indy100. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ O'Connor, Joe (June 9, 2017). "P.K. Subban faces off against the politics of the Old South still on display in Tennessee". National Post. Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ Hale, Steven (December 27, 2017). "Rebel Fail: Area Confederate General Defeated Again". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ "Statue Of Civil War General Forrest Still Draws Fire". NPR. August 5, 2011. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ "There is a problem with this website's security certificate". Retrieved 2017.

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