Proposed MS license plate would honor early KKK leader

By Jason Miles - bio | email | Facebook

HORN LAKE, MS (WMC-TV) - The statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest remains a commanding presence in his namesake Memphis park.  And it continues to prompt strong opinions from people like visitor Jennifer Vest.

"I think it's tragic," said Vest.

Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  A car tag honoring him would be among several specialty plates commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  They require legislative approval and are being pushed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"You should commemorate and remember the war," said member Allen Latimer of Horn Lake, MS.  "That's one of the seminal parts in our history," he added.

"I think they're diving a wedge deeper between the races," said former Shelby County Judge and civil rights attorney D'Army Bailey.

He helped lead the unsuccessful attempt in 2005 to remove the Forrest statue in Memphis and would hate to see his likeness on a car tag.

"One would not create a specialty license plate for Adolph Hitler," said Bailey.  "And what's the difference?" he wondered.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans claim Forrest distanced himself from the KKK in later life.  They say proceeds from Forrest license plates would benefit the preservation of original Confederate flags in the Mississippi state archives.

"I would be neutral on the subject, but if the state were to pass it and people purchase it," said Mississippi driver Kay Parker.  "That would be their business," she added.

"I can understand that and wouldn't take offense if I were against it," said driver Adam Farris.

Proponents have yet to decide exactly what a Forrest license plate would look like.

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