published Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Mississippi license plate proposed to honor KKK leader

  • photo
    Greg Stewart, a member of the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, displays a sample of the latest Civil War sesquicentennial tag that is being sold, left, adjacent to the current tag in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. A fight is brewing in Mississippi over a proposal to issue specialty license plates honoring Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A fight is brewing in Mississippi over a proposal to issue specialty license plates honoring Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which it calls the "War Between the States." The group proposes a different design each year between now and 2015, with Forrest slated for 2014.

"Seriously?" state NAACP president Derrick Johnson said when he was told about the Forrest plate. "Wow."

Forrest, a Tennessee native, is revered by some as a military genius and reviled by others for leading the 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn. Forrest was a Klan grand wizard in Tennessee after the war.

Sons of Confederate Veterans member Greg Stewart said he believes Forrest distanced himself from the Klan later in life. It's a point many historians agree upon, though some believe it was too little, too late, because the Klan had already turned violent before Forrest left.

"If Christian redemption means anything — and we all want redemption, I think — he redeemed himself in his own time, in his own actions, in his own words," Stewart said. "We should respect that."

State Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said legislators would have to approve a series of Civil War license plates. She said if every group that has a specialty license plate wanted a redesign every year, it would take an inordinate amount time from Department of Revenue employees who have other duties.

SCV has not decided what the Forrest license plate would look like, Stewart said. Opponents are using their imagination.

A Facebook group called "Mississippians Against The Commemoration Of Grand Wizard Nathan Forrest" features a drawing of a hooded klansman in the center of a regular Mississippi car tag.

Robert McElvaine, director of history department at the private Millsaps College in Jackson, joined the Facebook group. McElvaine said Forrest's role at Fort Pillow and involvement in the Klan make him unworthy of being honored, even on the bumpers of cars.

"The idea of celebrating such a person, whatever his accomplishments in other areas may have been, seems like a very poor idea," McElvaine told The Associated Press.

Mississippi lawmakers have shown a decidedly laissez-faire attitude toward allowing a wide variety groups to have speciality license plates, which usually sell for an extra $30 to $50 a year. The state sells more than 100 specialty plates for everything from wildlife conservation to breast cancer awareness. One design says "God Bless America," another depicts Elvis Presley. Among the biggest sellers are NASCAR designs and one with the slogan "Choose Life."

The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has had a state-issued specialty license plate since 2003 to raise money for restoration of Civil War-era flags. From 2003 through 2010, the design featured a small Confederate battle flag.

The Department of Revenue allowed the group to revise the license plate this year for the first of the Civil War sesquicentennial designs. The 2011 plate, now on sale, depicts the Beauvoir mansion in Biloxi, Miss., the final home of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president.

SCV wants license plates to feature Civil War battles that took place in Mississippi. It proposes a Battle of Corinth design for 2012 and Siege of Vicksburg design for 2013. Stewart said the 2015 plate would be a tribute to Confederate veterans.

Johnson, with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he's not bothered by Civil War commemorative license plates generally. But he said Mississippi shouldn't honor Forrest, who was an early leader of what he calls "a terrorist group."

"He should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden," Johnson said of Forrest. "The state of Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state."

Democratic Rep. Willie Bailey, who handles license plate requests in the House, said he has no problem with SCV seeking any design it wants.

"If they want a tag commemorating veterans of the Confederacy, I don't have a problem with it," said Bailey, who is black. "They have that right. We'll look at it. As long as it's not offensive to anybody, then they have the same rights as anybody else has."

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ceeweed said...

The Civil War is an important part of our country's history. It should not be forgotten, nor should we forget the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans. All men are created equal. Our history, as a country, has not always embraced that concept. We believed that Native Americans were savages, thus, dehumanizing an entire race. Sure made it easier to slaughter men, women, and children who were rationalized as being less than human....We, as a country, also believed that we could enslave another race for this same reason.

Manifest destiny was an irrational exercise in grandiosity. Racist groups, to this day, claim their beliefs are based upon Christian tenets and that the Bible somehow supports their idea of a superior race...These beliefs were mainstream for an entire century, post Civil War, in the south an its epicenter was Mississippi...Honoring Confederate General Forrest not only honors his accomplishments as a military leader, it also honors his leadership in the K.K.K. To say otherwise is to deny history and history cannot be rewritten.

February 10, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.
cave_demon said...

I wonder how all of the rednecks who support this would feel about a Black Panther party commmerative license plate? Typical conservatives- nothing but racist white trash.

February 10, 2011 at 9:54 a.m.
mtngrl said...

Could you please explain what you mean by that wildman? What is the difference and how is that relevant to this story?

February 10, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
Musicman375 said...

Racism has no place in today's society. It's concept is ludicrous and anyone who upholds it doesn't deserve my time regarding the topic. But I also understand Ceeweed's point. We don't need to forget about history, because that ensures that we are doomed to repeat it. So where's the balance? Do we ignore the military leadership of Gen. Bedford completely because he later joined the klan? It's a touchy subject.

I suppose if I saw a Black Panther tag, I would feel the same as I do about this one, but it's that person's right as a citizen to display it.

In the grand scheme of things, I wonder how appropriate this tag really is. I wonder if German citizens would support a tag honoring Hitler for his leadership skills, despite the fact that he was one of the most evil people in history... Gen. Bedford didn't murder millions of innocent people, but he did his share of murdering in his leading of the above mentioned massacre, so is it a fair comparison?

February 10, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
Mountainaire said...

At least racist drivers will be identifiable by their tags. This means that the individual's church members, co-workers, friends, family and strangers will know that the person is a racist just by looking at his tags. Maybe this will prevent road rage; help him keep a job; prove that he is a true christian (esp. if he is a preacher);and prevent damage to his car in the parking lot.

February 10, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.
camo705 said...

WOW, we need some them PLATES SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE!!!!!!!!!!

February 10, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
sig4ever2 said...

Contrary to Cave_Demon's sweeping statement, I am a Conservative and find myself totally unimpressed with any attempt to glorify the Klu Klux Klan.

February 10, 2011 at 11:49 a.m.
tomviolence said...

What would black Jesus do?

February 10, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Gov. Haley Barbour has been busy pandering to the haters and traitors probably because he is one of them. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a racist through and through. He started out as a slave trader, then a murderer for his savage massacre at Fort Pillow, after the war he became Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. No way should he be honored with a license plate. This is shameful.

Here's a statement from a CSA soldier about Fort Pillow:

" Achilles Clark, a soldier with the 20th Tennessee cavalry, wrote to his sister immediately after the battle: "The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor, deluded, negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees, and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. I, with several others, tried to stop the butchery, and at one time had partially succeeded, but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_B...

February 10, 2011 at 1:01 p.m.
mella_yella said...

Musicman: "So where's the balance? Do we ignore the military leadership of Gen. Bedford completely because he later joined the klan? It's a touchy subject. I suppose if I saw a Black Panther tag, I would feel the same as I do about this one, but it's that person's right as a citizen to display it."


To honor Bedford in such a manner is the equivalent to Germans honoring Hitler. There's no comparison to Black Panthers and what Nathan Bedford Forrest and his men did when they went from refugee camp to refugee camp slaughtering innocent men, women and children. Babies, who eyewitnesses say, Forrest and his men impaled and walking around with those babies dangling from the ends of their bayonets. What Forrest and his men committed even some of the worlds most brutal and sadistic dictators would consider hideous. His involvement with the KKK after the war is the least of his astrocities. As for as his change of heart later in life. Doesn't most every evildoer change when they fear they're about to meet their maker? His alleged change doesn't diminish the evil he and his men committed during the Civil War or "War Between The States" as some perfer to call it.

February 10, 2011 at 3:38 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

Username: sandyonsignal | On: February 10, 2011 at 1:01 p.m.

Username: mella_yella | On: February 10, 2011 at 3:38 p.m.

Thanks for your posts! I haven't ever studied the man's history, but I don't think I would have liked him much, to say the very least.

February 10, 2011 at 4:27 p.m.
rolando said...

"Forrest, a Tennessee native, is revered by some as a military genius and reviled by others for leading the 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn. Forrest was a Klan grand wizard in Tennessee after the war."

The author shows little regard for the times. The so-called massacre was the direct result of the Union commander's refusal of honorable surrender. Instead, he chose what one surviving officer reported [after fleeing the battle in "civilian clothes" -- his own words], "The officers and men chose to fight on with no quarter given". All combatants, regardless of race, were treated the same. Perhaps the defending commander should have considered just what the time-honored promise "no quarter given" meant. Sherman certainly knew what it meant during his March To The Sea...only HE butchered civilians -- women and children included. Sheridan and Grant also knew it when Gen. U.S. Grant ordered Sheridan to cripple the ability of the Shenandoah Valley to supply the CSA with food and fodder. This affected the civilian population as did no other act of war, including Sherman's march through Georgia.

The author compounds his error by assuming the earliest KKK was the same as the later, more violent, version hijacked by the Democrat Party.

"Robert McElvaine, director of history department at Millsaps College said Forrest's role at Fort Pillow and involvement in the Klan make him unworthy of being honored, even on the bumpers of cars."

Studying history under this clown's department would be like studying the power and strength of capitalism under Lenin.

The author also said, "The state sells more than 100 specialty plates for everything from wildlife conservation to breast cancer awareness. One design says "God Bless America," another depicts Elvis Presley. Among the biggest sellers are NASCAR designs and one with the slogan "Choose Life."

So the author picks four of the 100 plates to describe his idea of what Southerners believe is important. I am surprised he didn't include "clinging to their guns and religion". His bigotry is showing...

NAACP Prez Johnson said, "Forrest should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden [and] Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state."

With that logic, the NAACP et al should view Al Sharpton in that same light, to say nothing of the Black Panthers, past and "New"...you know, the club wielding thugs outside voting areas in white neighborhoods.

August 20, 2012 at 7:38 p.m.
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