Oak Hill mayor asks Haslam to obscure Forrest statue from I-65

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The mayor of Oak Hill in Nashville is asking the governor to obscure a statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The statue was erected on private property adjacent to Interstate 65 in Nashville. Oak Hill, with a population of about 4,000, is nearby.

Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell wrote an open letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam asking him to have plants and shrubbery planted on state property to block the statue from view.

Her letter reads:

Dear Governor Haslam,

As our country struggles to make sense of the current divisive climate that plays out in terrible events like the recent conflict in Charlottesville, VA, I greatly appreciate your courage and leadership in expressing support for the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from the State Capitol.

Adjacent to our City on Interstate-65 next to the northbound shoulder at ~mile marker 77, there is another large and unattractive monument to Mr. Forrest that was installed by a citizen on private property in 1998.

I know that you are aware of this eyesore, and TDOTs 2015 refusal to obscure it with landscaping, as you expressed disdain for the statue and concern about the legality of the council’s vote to do so.

Given the current political climate I respectfully request that you reconsider the council’s recommendation for landscaping. I believe that our minority citizens and neighbors need to know that we do not condone the galvanization of historical figures appropriated by hate-groups as exemplars of their cause.

Thank you for your leadership and your devotion to all of the people of our great state.

The Metro-Nashville council voted to make a similar request in 2015, but nothing was ever done.

The land in front of the statue is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

In a statement to News 2, the department said: “TDOT is having internal discussions regarding the issue. No decisions have been made at this time.”

(Photo: WKRN)

The owner of the three-acre property where the statue sits is Bill Dorris. The 80-year-old told News 2 Wednesday he wouldn’t mind if TDOT plants trees or builds a noise abatement wall in front of his statue.

Dorris said he would make the statue taller so drivers could still see it from I-65.

Forrest was a lieutenant general for the Confederate army during the Civil War. Historians say he was also an early founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest later disavowed the Klan.

Governor Haslam’s office has not responded to a request for comment on the letter.