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Crawford: Lawmaker fights a war he cannot win

Posted: June 25, 2017 - 12:15am

It was not a good week for state Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson.

The North Georgia legislator lost two important committee posts because he just won't stop talking nonsense about the Civil War.

Benton is a supporter of the Confederate States of America, a stance that has long been a source of controversy because he also does such things as introduce bills to establish a Confederate History Month.

But after he recently circulated an article among his colleagues that claimed slavery was not a cause of the Civil War, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, finally removed Benton from two committee posts.

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

Ralston also announced he had "reconstituted" the membership of a study committee on civics education, replacing Benton on that panel with Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth.

It wasn't the first such dust-up for Benton, who spent 30 years teaching Georgia and American histories to school kids before he retired, and ran for the General Assembly in 2004.

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 to their former names if the prior name had honored a Civil War veteran.

That name change bill, if it had passed into law, would have required a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlanta revert to the name Gordon Road, which at one time memorialized Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon.

In the face of public protest, Benton withdrew all three bills and none of them got a committee vote.

There were calls at the time for Ralston to remove Benton as a committee chairman, but the speaker instead delivered a verbal rebuke.

It was during that same session Benton defended the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in an interview with a newspaper 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's view that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War is controversial for the simple reason it is a denial of history - which sounds strange for someone whose career was spent teaching history.

From past experience, I know after writing this column I will receive angry emails from these neo-Confederates calling me a "Yankee traitor."

That's fine - that goes with the territory.

Despite the Civil War controversies, Benton has done some good things as a lawmaker.

He has been a strong supporter of the state's public education system, and stood up against the House leadership and to vote against their wishes on some favored bills.

Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at tcrawford@gareport.com.

 

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Comments (2)

Riverman1

Leave it to Crawford to find

Leave it to Crawford to find a conservative to make fun of. A tip for him is that there are a lot of Neo Maos in Georgia government to report on.

Carl Tommy Miller.

Tom Crawford The Georgia Report

Finds nothing good to say about anything conservative and Georgia!

CTM