Dolly Parton could soon replace the KKK at the Tennessee state capitol.
A Republican lawmaker who once defended the bust of Confederate general and Klu Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest displayed at the state’s capitol has now changed his tune and is leading a charge to have it replaced.
As the Tennessean reported, state Representative Jeremy Faison once said that the bust of Forrest was part of history, resisting movements from opponents who wanted to take it down. But Faison said a conversation with an African-American lawmaker opened his eyes to the true history behind Bedford.
Representative G.A. Hardaway asked Faison if he had ever actually read Forrest’s writings, and Faison said he came to understand more about the legacy of the man reported elected as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. Faison, who is the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said he now supports moving the bust to the state museum and replacing it with another state hero.
Faison noted that most of the busts displayed in the capitol’s alcove are men and suggested that they “get a lady in there” that he would be proud to show to his 16-year-old daughter. He mentioned Anne Dallas Dudley, a famous 18th century women’s suffrage activist from Nashville, and added one more suggestion.
“What’s wrong with someone like Dolly Parton being put in that alcove?”
Parton has been a beloved figure in Tennessee, leading a number of charitable efforts and opening what has become the most popular ticketed tourist attraction in the state, her Dollywood theme park. As Consequence of Sound noted, Dolly has also been a state trailblazer through the park, hosting an unofficial “gay day” annually and doing so long before the widespread acceptance of gay marriage.
The singer noted that the move was not without resistance, but she wanted the park to be open to everyone.
“When it first started, there were people giving us threats. I still get threats,” Parton told Nightline in a 2018 interview.
“But like I said, I’m in business. I just don’t feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody.”
Dolly has frequently given back to Tennessee residents struck by tragedy, including recently helping victims of a wildfire that ravaged parts of the state.
The legendary singer has already been memorialized in other parts of the state. There is a statue of a young, barefoot Parton outside the Sevier County Courthouse in her native county.