State Rep. Will Dismukes continues to feel fallout of celebrating the first Grand Wizard of KKK
Prattville, Ala. - The controversy surrounding Alabama House Representative Will Dismukes’ attendance at a birthday celebration for the first Grand Wizard of the KKK and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest continued today. The Alabama Baptist reported that Dismukes resigned from his position as pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church (Prattville) after a meeting of the Autauga Baptist Association, of which Pleasant Hill is a member church.
Dismukes set-off a firestorm of criticism from both Democrat and Republican officials on Sunday after posting a photograph on Facebook of himself giving the invocation at a 199th birthday celebration for Forrest at Fort Dixie in Selma. The post coincided with memorial services across the state in honor of the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, a central figure in Selma's Bloody Sunday events, which many view as a pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. [PHOTOGRAPHS BELOW: Two page invitation to the Fort Dixie celebration includes references to a 'pickaninny freeze watermelon stand']
Reaction to his post was swift from both sides of the aisle. After news broke that Dismukes resigned his pastoral post, Democrat State Representative Merika Coleman tweeted “one resignation down. Now time to resign from the Alabama legislature.” The Alabama House Democratic Caucus also sent out a statement on July 27 calling for Dismukes immediate resignation, stating that “we are well past the point where we…can entertain this racist nonsense any longer."
Alabama Representative Chris England, who also serves as the Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party tweeted Dismukes shouldn't have a place in the
Alabama Legislature, stating that it's "hard to believe that Rep. Will Dismukes will be able to equally represent all of his constituents when he attends KKK Grand Wizard Birthday Parties that feature PICKANNINY Freeze Watermelon Stands."
Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss, who represents the Prattville area in the State Senate, tweeted a statement calling for Dismukes to resign after he made comments to WSFA stating he did not understand why people were so upset with his actions and Facebook post. Republican Representative Danny Garrett tweeted, “I cannot fathom why anyone in 2020 celebrates the birthday of the 1st KKK Grand Wizard. And while the body of a civil rights icon beaten by the Klan lies at state Capitol being honored by GOP/Dem leaders from all over the state. This mentality doesn’t represent me or my faith.” Other Republican officials, including Party Chair Terry Lathan and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon also distanced themselves from Dismukes’ comments.
Dismukes has rebuked calls for his resignation as State Representative and has said he has no plans to do so. A vocal advocate for the preservation of Confederate history, Dismukes told WSFA 12 News he won’t apologize for his family’s heritage and their service during what he called the “war between the states,” which he doesn’t believe was primarily fought over slavery.
As the nation continues to reel from the killing of an unarmed George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer, Alabama has been forced to again grapple with the implications of a 2017 law that prohibits the removal or alteration of monuments, structures and named buildings that have been in place 40 years or longer. Local entities, including the cities of Birmingham and Mobile, have removed figures honoring Confederate leaders in spite of the legal implications of the 2017 statute. AL.com reported last month that the Alabama Senate, under the leadership of Pro Tem Del Marsh and Senator Bobby Singleton, has pledged for open and honest debate over this law and forthcoming police reforms bills. The Alabama House of Representatives though, has seen more racial tension in recent years due to the larger size of the body. Marsh told AL.com that he has “heard some suggestions that make sense” while Singleton said he agrees with Marsh that “we are not far apart on a whole lot of issues.”
Unless a Special Session is called by Governor Ivey, the Legislature will return to Montgomery on February 2, 2021.