There were lots of dignitaries and politicians in Selma over the weekend paying their final respects to Alabama native, civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who passed away last week from pancreatic cancer after a remarkable career that included representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District since 1987.
Another event took place last weekend in Selma, this one attended by Prattville State Rep. Will Dismukes. But Dismukes wasn’t in Selma to pay his respects to John Lewis. He was there to celebrate the 199th birthday of the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.
As our country is going through more growing pains and unrest to bring about racial equality, Rep. Will Dismukes has taken the perplexing approach of doubling down on his support of America’s racist past.
As America celebrated Congressman John Lewis’ lifetime of achievements, Dismukes spent his weekend celebrating the birthday of a racist leader. Just across town from where Lewis’ funeral procession crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge stood Dismukes, flanked by many confederate flags, giving the invocation and having what he called a “great time” at the 21st annual birthday celebration of the former Grand Wizard.
Dismukes has been rebuked by colleagues, constituents and the Republican Party. GOP House member and Majority Whip Danny Garrett was the first, tweeting, “I cannot fathom why anyone in 2020 celebrates the birthday of the 1st KKK Grand Wizard. 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. This mentality does not rep my party or my faith.”
The Democrats’ public call for Dismukes to resign should be expected. Monday, the Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party weighed in, urging Dismukes’ constituents to share with him their thoughts on his personal actions and calling his activities deeply offensive. Prattville Republican State Senator Clyde Chambless said Dismukes should resign immediately.
One might think that because of Dismukes’ admiration for the KKK he might be pro-mask during these COVID-19 times, but in further demonstrating his ignorance, Dismukes doesn’t believe in the kind of mask that can protect your neighbor. He went so far as to say the statewide mask requirement is the dumbest thing that could be done besides shutting the state down.
Dismukes has been an ambitious fella. Since winning his State House seat just two years ago, the then 29-year-old first-term state legislator strongly considered running for the U.S. Senate. He then entered the race to replace Rep. Martha Roby in the 2nd Congressional District, but his campaign never got much momentum and he later withdrew from the race.
John Lewis advocated for “good trouble” to redeem the soul of America. Will Dismukes appears to be advocating for another kind of trouble, one of hatred and divisiveness. In a time when our country is struggling to overcome racism, it doesn’t seem opportune to wave your confederate flag, yet that is the foul Dismukes is committing unapologetically. Maybe he didn’t realize it would cause such a stink. Let’s be real: Alabama voters have continually reelected Tom Parker to the State Supreme Court since 2004 and elevated him to Chief Justice in 2018, despite him sharing similar views and having attended the same event celebrating Forrest in years past.
Dismukes will find the State House to be a lonely place for the next two years, if he decides to remain in office. The former collegiate baseball player, stroke survivor, part-time pastor and business owner by all appearances looked to have a successful political career ahead of him. No more. He is now merely another minnow drowning in a shallow pool of racists.
Will Dismukes will be a one-term state representative from Prattville whose decision to celebrate bad trouble over good trouble landed him in some awful trouble. But Chief Justice Tom Parker remains unscathed. I guess he picked the right year not to attend the Grand Wizard’s birthday party.