Having your work published week in and week out in a newspaper, your words existing ostensibly forever in the public record, requires thick skin.
I learned this long ago, in a galaxy not too far away. Having previously worked as a newspaper editor, I was hired by a local paper as a writer in my mid-20s. Writing had long been my goal. My editor assigned a story on something related to Lake Forrest Drive, what I can’t specifically recall. I do recall, though, that “Forrest” was in the headline.
I remember because after the article came out, a reader circled several errors including one in the headline in red and wrote a large “F” in the upper right-hand corner and sent it to me.
It seemed I had spelled “Forrest” with one “r” on every reference, every one of them circled in red ink. You see, Lake Forrest Drive is named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, which I didn’t realize at the time. The naming would have made more sense if it was just Forrest Road or Lake Road, but I digress.
This minor Atlanta trivia is about to be thrust into the public spotlight. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council appointed a committee to review street names and monuments related to the Confederacy, and I would dare say few are as egregious as Lake Forrest.
Forrest is best known for his role in the Civil War. He entered the war as a private and rose to the rank of general in the Confederate Army, one of only a few to have done so. He had no formal military training, but is considered one of the most brilliant tacticians of the war.
He commanded an incredibly successful cavalry, noted for getting there first with the most men. He led his men in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi and conducted several raids in west Georgia, but it seems that is as far as he got into the Peach State. His cavalry secured more guns, horses and supplies from the Union armies than any other.
So there’s that component of Forrest – Confederate military hero – and then there’s this: He was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Though he disavowed any involvement with the organization publicly, historians say he was the grand wizard. Indeed, it has been posited the name “grand wizard” is play on his nickname, The Wizard of the Saddle.
He also is credited with disbanding that first iteration of the KKK in 1869 and became a bit of a champion of African-American rights later in life. These elements of his life are less well known.
The city created the Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee in the wake of the tragic events over the summer in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is made up of 12 people, including Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale, Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Derrick Kayongo and Cox Enterprises Director of Corporate Affairs Sonja Jacobs. Its first meeting was Nov. 1.
I won’t deign to tell anyone what should be done with the road bearing Forrest’s name, which stretches from Powers Ferry Road near Roswell Road in Buckhead to Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs. Clearly I have my own issues with it. It would be spelled correctly more often if that one “r” were removed.
I do know the advisory committee is looking at everything, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lake Forrest Drive’s days are numbered.