Benton loses committee slots over Civil War mailout

[private]State Rep. Tommy Benton has been removed from two committee posts after sending a mail piece to his House colleagues claiming that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War.

Benton, a staunch believer in the Confederate cause, has long been a source of controversy because of his remarks and actions involving the Civil War – such as introducing an unsuccessful bill to establish a Confederate History Month.

But after he recently circulated an article that claims the Civil War was fought because of states’ rights, not over slavery, Benton lost two committee posts that he had been appointed to by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

Ralston replaced Benton as chairman of the Human Relations & Aging Committee with Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee).

Ralston also announced in a Friday news release that he had “reconstituted” the membership of a study committee on civics education, replacing Benton with Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).

Benton, a retired public school teacher who taught Georgia and American history, has stirred up public controversies several times during his seven terms in the House over comments he’s made about the Civil War and its aftermath.

In the 2016 session, he sponsored a bill that would have required the state to formally recognize Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday as public holidays, a constitutional amendment that would protect Stone Mountain as a Confederate memorial, and another bill that would require street names changed since 1968 to revert back to their former names if their prior name had honored a Civil War veteran.

That bill, if passed, would have required that a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlanta revert back to the name Gordon Road, which memorialized Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon.

Benton withdrew all three of those bills, none of which made it out of committee.

There were calls at that time for Ralston to remove Benton as a committee chairman, but the speaker instead delivered a verbal rebuke: “While we are mindful of our history, the business of the General Assembly isn’t in rewriting or reinterpreting the past, but rather to focus on improving Georgia’s future.”

It was during that same session that Benton defended the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in an interview with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, contending that the Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order. . . . I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”

Benton also said that attempts to remove Confederate statues and memorials amounted to “cultural terrorism.”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Civil War , David Ralston , Tommy Benton