GOP Alabama Lawmaker Describes 'Great Time' at KKK Leader Birthday Event

A GOP Alabama lawmaker who previously showed support for the Confederacy is facing further calls to resign after he described having a "great time" at an event celebrating a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Rep. Will Dismukes has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for his Facebook post over the weekend where he revealed he attended an annual birthday celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest at Fort Dixie in Selma, Alabama.

Forrest was a leader in the Confederate Army as well as being the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.

The event honoring Forrest took place the same day that a service for the late rep. John Lewis was also held in Selma. The civil rights icon, who was severely injured during a march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965, died on July 17 aged 80.

Republican Alabama State Rep. Danny Garrett said he "cannot fathom" why anyone would want to celebrate the birthday of the first KKK Grand Wizard in 2020.

"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," Garrett tweeted. "This mentality does not rep my party or my faith."

Republican Alabama State Sen. Clyde Chambliss said in a statement he has a policy of not criticizing elected officials, but is "making an exception" for Dismukes, adding he needs to resign immediately.

"He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people of District 88," Chambliss said. "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 the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings."

Speaking to WSFA, Dismukes dismissed the calls for him to resign and said the recent death of Lewis "wasn't even running through my mind" when he made the Facebook post about the former KKK leader.

"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. "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.

"This was just one of those times that it didn't quite go the way I expected, and I never intended to bring hurt to anyone, especially my own family with everything that's been said."

Dismukes faced calls to step down last month after publicly expressing support for continuing state funding of the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury. Dismukes also uploaded a photo to Facebook earlier this year of him standing in front of a Confederate flag, wearing a shirt with a Confederate flag patch while celebrating "Confederate Flag Day."

In a statement, Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Wade Perry once again called for the "extremist" Dismukes to resign over the post about Forrest.

"Will Dismukes has demonstrated yet again why he is unfit to hold public office. Americans don't celebrate racists or traitors. Nathan Bedford Forrest was both. And a founder of the Klan," Perry said.

"The Alabama Democratic Party renews our call for Dismukes to resign. It's 2020 and it's time for racial extremists like Will Dismukes to go away."

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:

— Alabama Democrats (@aldemocrats) July 26, 2020

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said the party is not actively calling for Dismukes to resign as his constituents "will be the final decision makers of his political future" while urging them to contact him to discuss their thoughts regarding his actions.

"Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest," Lathan said. "Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians.

"It is one thing to honor one's Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans."

Dismukes has been contacted for comment.

Members of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan participate in the 11th Annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday march July 11, 2009 in Pulaski, Tennessee. A GOP Alabanma lawmaker is facing calls to resign after saying he had a “great time” at an event celebrating Forrest. Spencer Platt/Getty