MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - State Rep. Will Dismukes, a Republican from Prattville, said Tuesday he has no plans to resign as a growing chorus of officials calls for him to step down after he attended a celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Forrest was a leader in the Confederate Army and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Dismukes declined to comment further on the calls for his resignation.
Sunday, Dismukes posted on social media, "Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and some sure enough good eating."
Dismukes told WSFA 12 News during an interview Monday that he was surprised by the response to his post, which was removed from Facebook less than 24 hours later. He blamed “anti-southern sentiment” for the negative response. The post was made the same day the state was honoring the life of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis.
“It wasn’t some kind of shot at the passing of Representative John Lewis,” Dismukes stated. “I mean that didn’t even really go through my mind, I literally was really just reflecting on a previous day’s events and it was taken in a completely different way that I didn’t exactly see coming and I take responsibility for that.”
He declined to say whether the blowback changed whether he would attend the event again.
Perhaps the strongest call for resignation came from Sen. Clyde Chambliss Monday: “Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative. He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people of District 88. 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. He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few minutes ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgement – he should resign immediately.”
The Young Republican Federation of Alabama voted to officially censure Dismukes, also calling on him to resign immediately from office.
“Representative Dismukes made it clear which side of history he wishes to side with. Not only is this display tone deaf and disrespectful, but it directly contradicts the values that our party should stand for,” said YRFA Chairman Dalton Dismukes.
The YRFA also says Dismukes is no longer recognized as a member of the Republican party.
“We withdraw all past, present and future support of Representative Dismukes in all efforts to hold political office,” the statement added.
Dismukes was first called to resign in June after his public support not to defund the Confederate Memorial Park. He serves as the Chaplain of the Prattville Dragoons, Sons of the Confederate Veterans. The 199th Birthday Party for Nathan Bedford Forrest was listed on the association’s blog that features posts and invitations.
“You know right now with everything going on, they’re clearly drawing a connection to me, and you know I’m certainly a supporter of my Southern heritage and I’m not ashamed of my family and in our service during the war between the states. That’s one thing I won’t to apologize for,” Dismukes said.
Dismukes said he doesn’t believe slavery was the central issue that prompted the Civil War.
“I believe that slavery was a secondary cause to the fighting of the Civil War,” he said. “That comes through my extensive research of reading hundreds and hundreds of books and studying and actually looking at the articles of secession from multiple states.”
Alabama’s Ordinance of Secession illustrates that slavery was part of the creation of the Confederacy.
“And as it is the desire and purpose of the people of Alabama to meet the slaveholding States of the South, who may approve such purpose, in order to frame a provisional as well as permanent Government upon the principles of the Constitution of the United States,” the document states.
Dismukes denies he’s a racist, despite attending a celebration for a leader of a white supremacist hate group, and says he fairly represents all his constituents.
“Because I’m not ashamed of my heritage all of a sudden now I’m being locked into this racist category which is the farthest thing from the truth,” he said. “I love people of all colors of all nationalities, I try to find the common good in each and every individual no matter what your past is, no matter what you’re going through. We just literally live in an age of intolerance and that’s the intolerance on both sides, it’s no longer okay to have an opposing viewpoint on something and it’s disappointing.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center says the annual event Dismukes attended has ties to the neo-confederate hate group, League of the South.