A senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs took down a portrait of the confederate general and first Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from his office after a Washington Post reporter asked about it on Monday, the Post reported Tuesday.
Ahead of the run-in with the Post, VA employees had begun signing a petition to remove the print.
The official, David J. Thomas, has worked at the Veterans Affairs Department since 2013 and leads the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, which certifies veteran-owned businesses, the Post noted. The portrait is called “No Surrender,” and shows a Forrest sitting on a horse in the snow in 1862.
“It was just a beautiful print that I had purchased, and I thought it was very nice,” Thomas told the Post. He knew Forrest only “as a southern general during the Civil War,” he said.
Nine of the 14 managers in Thomas’ office are black, the Post reported, and “at least three” employees have accused him of racial discrimination.
One manager with a pending Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case against Thomas, Michelle Gardner-Ince, recalled Thomas telling her several years ago: “‘My wife told me I shouldn’t put this picture up, but I said I don’t care; I like it.’”
A union steward noticed the portrait of Forrest last week, the Post said, leading to the petition for its removal.
A spokesperson for the VA told the Post that “Mr. Thomas immediately took down the print in question,” after hearing about employees’ concerns from the Post, “and the matter is resolved.”