Av was at a big conference in downtown Jackson a few weeks ago and I knew he was close to the Robert E. Lee building on Lamar Street — I mentioned to him that I had heard they had elevators unlike anywhere else, and sure enough…
In 2005, we were at Live Oak Cemetery in Selma and took this picture of the bust of Forrest. It was first located in front of the Smitherman Building but was moved to this location in the cemetery after much unhappiness about it being there (Smitherman had been the mayor of Selma for decades — we were in attendance of the parade of the first black mayor of Selma as it took place during Rosh Hashanah services — we stopped services and all went outside the synagogue and stood on the front steps to see it):
People weren’t pleased with this location in the cemetery either…and on this visit in 2012 (pic below), the bust was gone, stolen. A local group paid for a new bust to be made, and it was installed last month.
As a complete aside, there was so much trouble keeping Trent Lott’s bronzed likeness intact in front of a school — named what else? Trent Lott Middle School — that locals built a cage around it for protection.
The thing is, characters of history were real people, more complicated and multi-faceted than anyone almost ever seems to give them credit for. What was Forrest’s philosophy when he was older and had wisdom? The man who said this to a black racial reconciliation group in Memphis:
I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment…
…Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.
Individuals are free to spend their money as they wish, but one may imagine that Forrest would have preferred the money for this monument (2x now) to have gone to unity and caring — following his own words and sentiment — rather than something that has caused so much unhappiness and divisiveness.