One of the strangest pieces of art forced upon the public by private eccentrics was taken down on Tuesday when a crew removed the 27-foot-tall polyurethane statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a hill overlooking I-65 just south of Nashville.
The statue, put up in 1998, depicts the Confederate general, war criminal, and first-ever grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan generally looking like shit as he aims a teensy pistol into the ether behind him. For the past 23 years, the commuters of middle Tennessee could thank the sculptor (and segregationist) Jack Kershaw and the millionaire (and Confederate apologist) Bill Dorris for the work. In a racist twist on the art-benefactor relationship, Dorris paid for the materials and bought the land adjacent to the highway where the statue sat, telling New York in 2017 that he had spent around $80,000 for the statue and its upkeep despite calling Kershaw’s talent “mediocre.” Because it was on private land, the frequently vandalized silver-and-gold monstrosity was exempt from the arguments over removal of Confederate statues that have embroiled the nation for the past decade.
But after Dorris died last November at the age of 84 with no wife or children, he left the slice of land to the Battle of Nashville Trust, which decided to remove the statue on Tuesday. The group released a statement describing its rationale, saying the piece was “ugly,” had “no historical significance,” and “even Forrest would think it was ugly.” Dorris also left $5 million for his Border collie, Lulu, though the local CBS affiliate reports the fortune has “since been reduced considerably.”