Alabama State Rep. Resigns as Pastor After Attending KKK Leader's Birthday Event

Alabama lawmaker Will Dismukes has resigned from his role as pastor of a local baptist church. The Republican state representative's resignation came several days after he attended an event celebrating the birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate Army general and early Ku Klux Klan leader.

Alabama lawmakers and voters condemned Dismukes and shared widespread calls for his resignation from the state legislature earlier this week. The criticism comes on the heels of a previous push for Dismukes to resign last month, in light of his public support for continued state funding to Alabama's Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury. As of Thursday, Dismukes' intentions regarding his position within the state's House of Representatives remained unclear.

Dismukes incited the most recent wave of backlash with a Facebook post about the July 25 event, which takes place annually. Dismukes gave a speech at this year's gathering, held in Selma at Fort Dixie, which is not an actual fort but reportedly the property of Butch and Pat Godwin. A memorial event to commemorate late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was underway in Selma on the same day.

"Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration," the post read. "Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!"

The Facebook post was deleted from Dismukes' personal account soon after news outlets began to report its contents. He later referenced "cancel culture" and an "anti-southern sentiment" in a statement addressing the public's reaction.

"I guess, with the anti-southern sentiment and all, and the things that we have going on in the world today, there's a lot of people that are seeming to be more and more offended," Dismukes said in the statement to NBC affiliate WSFA-12. "We live in a time where we literally are going through cancel culture from all different areas and people are even more sensitive on different issues and different subjects."

Rep. Will Dismukes (R—1865) spent today honoring a KKK founder rather than a giant of the Civil Rights Movement. Both events were in Selma, but there really aren’t two sides to this.

Want fewer folks like Will Dismukes getting elected in Alabama? Help us: https://t.co/e9cnBpQ5Eq pic.twitter.com/pIbtq3gs79

— Alabama Democrats (@aldemocrats) July 26, 2020

Mel Johnson, the lead mission strategist at Autauga Baptist Association, which oversees Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, where Dismukes served as pastor, discussed his resignation in comments to Christian newspaper The Alabama Baptist on Wednesday. He said the association's leadership responded to Dismukes' Facebook post promptly.

"Immediate effort was made to connect with Will," Johnson told the newspaper. "He was open and receptive to our call and subsequent in-person meeting on Tuesday afternoon."

Johnson confirmed Dismukes' resignation to Newsweek on Thursday.

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, published a blog post distancing the board from Dismukes' KKK ties on Monday.

"Like so many others, I am heartsick concerning the recent ugly events which have highlighted the sin of racism among us," Lance wrote.

A brief foreword attributed to several board members added: "We are saddened and grieved to learn of the recent Facebook post by State Representative Will Dismukes who also serves as a bivocational pastor. In the wake of tremendous controversy, we reaffirm our opposition to any kind of racism."

Newsweek reached out to Dismukes for comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday
Members of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan participate in an annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday march in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 2009. Alabama state Rep. Will Dismukes resigned from his role as pastor of a local baptist church after attending a similar event last weekend, which prompted widespread public backlash. Spencer Platt/Getty