by Bruce Barry
Although The Tennessean ran a brief notice on the man's death several days ago, a New York Times obituary over the weekend fleshes out some of the bizarre details of the life of Jack Kershaw, who created the ridiculous equestrian statue of Confederate general and KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest that sits alongside I-65 south of the city, and who represented James Earl Ray in an attempt to overturn his conviction for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the Times reports, Kershaw's death at age 96 was first announced by the League of the South, a loopy Alabama-based group of Confederacy nostalgics whose stated purpose is to "organise [sic] the Southern people so that they might effectively pursue independence and self-government." The League describes Kershaw as "a renaissance man, non conforming in both dress and content." I guess they're entitled to their point of view.
Curiously, an article on the Tennessean website that appears under a Dickson Herald banner blatantly plagiarizes the League of the South obituary. Perhaps what we're looking at is a paid death announcement placed by the League, but the website gives no hint of that or otherwise credits the source.
In representing Ray in the late 1970s, Kershaw pursued a Ray-as-conspiracy-dupe theory, arguing that Ray thought he was just obtaining a weapon for gun-smuggling purposes. According to the Times obit, Kershaw and Ray had a falling-out over Kershaw's suggestion that Ray take a lie-detector test as part of a magazine interview.
A native of Missouri, Kershaw grew up in Tennessee, played football for and graduated from Vanderbilt, and went on to earn a law degree at what was then known as the Nashville Y.M.C.A. Night Law School (now the Nashville School of Law). David Ribar wrote about Kershaw and his hideous statue in a Scene piece titled "Monumental Failure" back in July 1998.