Debate over Jacksonville school name continues

By Hailey Winslow, General assignment reporter, hwinslow@wjxt.com
Published On: Oct 03 2013 10:52:19 PM EDT
Updated On: Oct 03 2013 11:27:27 PM EDT

VIDEO: Renewed pressures for changing the name of Forrest High.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Nathan B. Forrest High School was named more than half century ago, and many say the school's namesake needs to change.

"The name represents hate, the name represents a person who was a murderer, who was a slave trader and just an all-around bad guy," said Omotayo Richmond, who has worked to put together a petition to get the school's name changed.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate General during the American Civil War and also served as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK, before distancing himself from the Klan.

Forrest actually has two schools named after him: One in Jacksonville and the other in his hometown of Chapel Hill, Tenn.

"It's wrong, it's wrong, it sends a wrong message to America," said Richmond. "It sends a message that America is not willing to forget and to wipe out the atrocities that it committed in the name of liberty and profit."

Not everyone agrees with Richmond's petition or his cause to change the name of the school.

"He gave lots of jobs to blacks on his railroad in Memphis, Tennessee and when he died, there were lots of blacks there at his funeral," said Boie Catlin.

"It was a good thing he was in charge of the Klan because he was in charge of the clan he tried to get them disbanded," said Museum of Southern History's James Shillinglaw.

"His interior guard were eight black men," said Catlin. "They were armed with pistols, knives, guns and swords. If they didn't like him, they could've killed him anytime they wanted to."

Passionate petitioners told Channel 4 Thursday that they won't stop until Forrest High School is renamed after someone who they think deserves it.

"KKK is a terrorist group, it's a terrorist organization, it's crazy," said Richmond.

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