The Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans has sparked a debate in Mississippi over a proposal to issue license plates that honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a early and prominent leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
The organization says that it wants to sponsor these state-issued license plates to honor the 150th anniversary of what they call the “War Between he States”, the Associated Press reports. A different design would be created each year between 2011 and 2015. Forrest would appear on the specialty license plate in 2014.
Forrest was originally from Tennessee and was appreciated in the Old South for his military prowess. He was well-known for leading the 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. After the war he served as a grand wizard for the Klan.
However, some Sons of Confederate Veterans members claim there is a strong belief that Forrest distanced himself from the Klan later in life.
“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,” Greg Stewart, organization member, said. “We should respect that.”
Kathy Waterbury, the State Department of Revenue spokeswoman, said that legislators would need to approve a series of Civil War license plates and that it could take an inordinate amount of time to approve a redesign for each year.
Some think that the idea just won’t fly.
Robert McElvaine, director of history department at the private Millsaps College in Jackson, told the Associated Press that Forrest’s involvement with the Klan makes an unworthy candidate for public honor.
“The idea of celebrating such a person, whatever his accomplishments in other areas may have been, seems like a very poor idea,” McElvaine said.