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Group wants license plate honoring KKK leader

By Emily Wagster Pettus
Associated Press / February 11, 2011

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JACKSON, Miss. — A fight is brewing in Mississippi over a proposal to issue specialty license plates honoring Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which it calls the War Between the States. The group proposes a different design each year between now and 2015, with Forrest slated for 2014.

“Seriously?’’ state NAACP president Derrick Johnson said when he was told about the Forrest plate. “Wow.’’

Forrest, a Tennessee native, is revered by some as a military genius and reviled by others for leading an 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn. Forrest was a Klan grand wizard in Tennessee after the war.

Sons of Confederate Veterans member Greg Stewart said he believes Forrest distanced himself from the Klan later in life. It is a point many historians agree upon, though some believe it was too little, too late, because the Klan had already turned violent before Forrest left.

“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,’’ Stewart said. “We should respect that.’’

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