A Georgia state lawmaker who opposed a statue of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and wants to restore street names to the era before King was assassinated has been named chair of a state House committee just days ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
GA House Speaker David Ralston on Friday named GOP Rep. Tommy Benton to chair the House Retirement Committee, which oversees teachers’ retirement funds in the state, among other things, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Less than two years ago, Benton was stripped of the chairmanship of the House Human Relations and Aging Committee after he circulated among lawmakers an article disputing that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. That article was titled “The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States.”
Benton also is a fan of the Ku Klux Klan, stating in 2016 that the KKK “made a lot of people straighten up.” He said the KKK “was not so much a racist thing, but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The speaker’s philosophy is that people deserve a second chance and that’s what he has given Chairman Benton,” House spokesman Kaleb McMichen told the newspaper.
Per the report:
Ralston has never publicly criticized Benton by name, and apart from the temporary demotion from House leadership, the controversies have had little impact on the seven-term legislator from Jackson County. Benton handily defeated his opponent in the Republican primary last year and was unopposed in the general election.
Benton, a retired teacher, also has worked to protect Confederate monuments, including calling for a constitutional amendment to protect Stone Mountain, a memorial often described as the “Mt. Rushmore of the Confederacy,” as Splinter reported in 2016. In 2017, Benton wanted lawmakers to adopt Confederate Memorial Day as an official holiday. He also wanted them to officially recognize Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday, and declare April “Confederate History Month.”
McMichen said the timing of the announcement of Benton’s new chairmanship, ahead of MLK Day on Monday, was purely coincidental.
“The (state) constitution dictates when we have to come into session…That’s where we are,” McMichen said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Yeah, we know where you are. Or rather, who you are.