3 GOP leaders sign petition to keep Forrest’s name

By SCOTT BRODEN
Gannett Tennessee
Wednesday, 12/06/06

A petition to keep Nathan Bedford Forrest’s name on a building at MTSU was signed by three local Republican leaders who say the Confederate general is a part of local history.

Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess, State Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville and Rutherford County Republican Party Chairman Howard Wall confirmed Tuesday that they were among the 1,350 people who signed a petition circulated by MTSU sophomore Matthew Hurtt.

Hurtt acted in response to a petition by MTSU senior Amber Perkins, signed by 205 students, which persuaded the university’s student Senate to ask administrators to change the name of Forrest Hall.

The Senate changed its vote after getting Hurtt’s petition.

"(Forrest) should be remembered," Burgess said.

"I think history is important. I think we should not be afraid to discuss it.

"The Civil War is an important part of history."

In July 1862, Forrest stormed the Rutherford County Courthouse to free Confederate supporters imprisoned by Union troops, said Burgess, whose office is in the pre-Civil War era building.

A plaque commemorating Forrest’s action is on an exterior wall of the courthouse near the county mayor’s office.

Whenever schoolchildren stop by, Burgess said, he passes out courthouse pamphlets that include the history about Forrest.

"Forrest’s men tore down the courthouse doors with axes and started fires in the hallways, causing the Union soldiers to leave their positions in the courthouse," the pamphlet says.

Forrest’s tactics were studied and used by military leaders in the 20th century, said Burgess, noting that the general should not be judged because he owned slaves.

Emphasize the positive

"Let’s talk about the good things about people and learn from our mistakes and build on that," Burgess said.

Students who want Forrest’s name removed say it is a reminder of slavery and repression of African-Americans.

Tracy said he was attending an MTSU football game when he agreed to sign the petition to keep Forrest’s name on the building.

"I just felt like that you cannot reverse history," said Tracy, whose Senate district includes much of Rutherford County.

Tracy said he heard from many of his constituents telling him they wanted to keep the name on MTSU’s ROTC building.

Forrest is part of local history, said Wall, whose great-grandfather, Perry Adcock, was a Confederate captain.

"At this late date, why should anyone try to rewrite history?" asked Wall, who plans to join the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans.

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