Under Tennessee law, governors are required to proclaim six dates as “days of special observance” including July 13 as “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; June 3 as “Memorial Day” or “Confederate Decoration Day”; and January 19 as “Robert E. Lee Day.”
“Nathan Bedford Forrest is a recognized military figure in American history and a native Tennessean,” the proclamation says.
He declined to say whether he thought the state law should be changed, the Tennessean reported.
“I haven’t even looked at that law, other than knowing I needed to comply with it, so that’s what I did,” Lee told the newspaper. “When we look at the law, then we’ll see.”
CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
The proclamation was condemned by Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
“This is WRONG,” Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK.”
The Texas Republican argued that Tennessee should not have an official day honoring Forrest and called on the state to change the law.
Nashville Mayor David Briley said “no law should force us to honor” Forrest and called on Lee and Tennessee Republican lawmakers, who hold control in the General Assembly, to repeal the law.