A Republican state representative from Alabama has resigned from his position as a pastor on Thursday after attending the 199th birthday celebration of Confederate general and first KKK Grand Wizard, Nathan Bradford Forrest.
Will Dismukes, 30, had attended the annual birthday celebration of the controversial leader on Saturday. The event was held on the same day tributes were being given in remembrance of the late civil rights leader, John Lewis.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Dismukes went public with the celebration in a now-deleted Facebook post.
"Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and sure enough good eating!" Dismukes wrote on Sunday.
Accompanying Dismukes written post was a photo where he stood behind a podium amongst several Confederate flags.
Following the weekend, Dismukes was met with calls for his resignation as a pastor by local church leaders, Baptist Press reports. Dismukes had served as the pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Prattsville since last February.
"We are saddened and grieved to learn of the recent Facebook post by state Rep. Will Dismukes," said Rick Lance, the executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. "... In the wake of tremendous controversy, we reaffirm our opposition to any kind of racism."
Lance’s June 4th blog post entitled “A Personal Credo Concerning Racism” was reposted on Monday by five officials of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and State Board of Missions.
Earlier this week, Dismukes had also met leaders from the Autauga Baptist Association, of which Pleasant Hill Baptist Church is a member of.
"The post was in no way intended to seem as if I was glorifying the Klan or any party thereof," Dismukes said in a statement. "The very atrocities and actions they committed are a disgrace to our country."
According to WSFA 12 News, Dismukes was shocked at the backlash he got from attending last Saturday’s event of the KKK leader.
“To be 100 percent honest with you, when I made the post I wasn’t even thinking about that connection,” Dismukes said. “You know, hey, that’s on me. That wasn’t even running through my mind. There were two things that weren’t running through my mind and that’s one, the passing of Representative John Lewis and the next is Nathan Bedford Forrest’s connection to the Ku Klux Klan.”
Regarding why Dismukes chose to celebrate Forrest’s birthday he said, “It’s like a just a huge public event where people come and eat and all that. It is centered around, you know, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s birthday, it is what it is.”
Nevertheless, Dismukes asserted that he is not a racist and that the backlash stems from “anti-Southern sentiment” as well as from “cancel culture”. He also declined to comment on whether he would attend the event again in the future.
Bipartisan legislatures have considered Dismukes apology and explanation to be insufficient and are calling for his resignation.
"The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings," Alabama Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville said on Facebook.
"It's 2020 and it's time for racial extremists like Will Dismukes to go away." Wade Perry, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party wrote in a statement.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Dismukes faced resignation calls in June by the Alabama Democratic Party after celebrating Confederate Flag Day and for his role as a chaplain for the Prattville Dragoons, a branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Photo courtesy: Ben White/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.