Forrest committee postpones name change vote; rally planned at school board meeting

Debate continues over name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School's name

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The debate over a Westside High School's name is still simmering.

After Forrest High School's Advisory Committee fails to vote on the name change issue, a group of people are planning to rally at tonight's Duval County School Board meeting.

The board will not be voting on this issue Tuesday night -- it's not even on the agenda -- but the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition wants people to show up and speak during public comment.

Duval County school officials say several steps need to be taken before this issue would even reach the School Board.

It's a debate that's been going on for decades. Local historian Dave Nelson dedicated a lot of time and effort fighting to keep the school's name the last time this came up.

Monday night, a couple dozen people showed up to the school's Advisory Council meeting, which listened to the public's opinion about the school's name, but made no decision. Their vote decides if the issue will be brought to the school board.

"I am frustrated. I really am because we had a very thorough process of educating the public on just who Forrest really was and why they should keep the name and why they picked the name, all of that and now just a few years later for them to completely forget about that," said Nelson.

This time, the push has intensified with a petition drive and a new group called the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition vowing not to give up the fight to get the school renamed. The controversy stems from Nathan Bedford Forrest's past with the Ku Klux Klan.

Asking people in the African American community to support a school named after the 'green dragon' of the KKK with tax dollars is kind of inappropriate in this day and age," said Robert Montgomery, a member of the Jacskonville Progressive Coalition.

There are supporters who argue what's being said about Forrest's past with the KKK is inaccurate. Nelson said in his civil war shop he has original manuscripts and documents to prove that and he's concerned if the school's name is changed, that tells the community he is guilty of things he didn't do.

"He was not the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. There is nothing contemporary to the time period that he was even the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He did not massacre troops at Fort Pillow, the congress had inquiry and released him of that," said Nelson.

The Jacksonville Progressive coalition wants people to join them at the school board meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, wearing green and holding signs before going into the meeting.

No decision will be made at all Tuesday during the School Board meeting.