License to Ill: Nathan Bedford Forrest Raises a Ruckus in Mississippi



  • Yeeee-haw!
Oh, Tennessee, you've got reason to be proud. Our little Nathan is making waves in Mississippi now!

In case you haven't followed the story, we'll bring you up to date: The Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans proposed a license plate honoring Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, famed Tennessean and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. For most Nashvillians, of course, he's best known as the man who inspired that fabulous statue on I-65.

Of course, the legacy of Forrest isn't exactly, if you'll excuse the phrase, black and white. The Klan he helped to found wasn't as extreme as the Klan today, and he later distanced himself from the organization. Still, to honor him with a license plate is at best misguided and at worst a slap in the face of Mississippi's African-American population.

When asked about the proposed license plate earlier this month, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour avoided taking a position, and refused to denounce the move: "“I know there’s not a chance it’ll become law,” he said.

But Barbour, who is considering a run for president, realized that such a vague response might not sit well with the national electorate, so on Monday, he offered a more firm statement: “The bureaucracy denied it, the legislature won’t pass it and if the legislature passes it, it won’t become law because I won’t sign it."

For a man who aspires to take on Barack Obama in 2012, that was probably a prudent restatement of position.

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