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[00:00:04]

Listener supported WNYC Studios. This is Dolly Parton's America. I'm Jad Abumrad. We are at the eighth of nine journeys into the Dolly verse, this one. Well, if our if our sort of through line idea for the series is that Dolly is.

[00:00:21]

A kind of great unifier. This is kind of where things get a little hard maybe here if we're talking about, you know, America from a Dollis eye view, we get the full on quivering mass of irreconcilable contradictions.

[00:00:40]

That's Professor Nadin Hub's again, University of Michigan.

[00:00:43]

Joline scholar Dolly is this singular figure in American culture who can pull off contradictions that nobody else could ever pull off.

[00:01:00]

The question is. Is this the place where finally Dolly met her match? Dolly's Waterloo, maybe Waterloo's putting it a little too dramatically, considering that the this that she's talking about involves racing pigs.

[00:01:21]

I think it has to be the worst. But what Nadine is referring to is a place, a place of business as you drive into Dollywood, which Sheema and I did with another Dolly ologist, Teekay, it's starting to get mountainous for a while. It's all Smoky Mountains. And then you pull in the Pigeon Forge. Wow. This is a little bit like starting in Vegas. It's like the Vegas Strip. I didn't expect that. Vegas that's when you roll in the pigeon for as you drive along this mile of nightclubs and dinner theaters, it's very sparkly, very neon.

[00:01:58]

You have a giant skyscraper and Godzilla hanging off.

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There's John Wayne over there and Elvis and Charlie Chaplin. Yeah. And you'll notice, will be on Dolly Parton Parkway.

[00:02:10]

Dolly's name is emblazoned on business after business and about halfway down the strip. You arrive at a big red building that looks a little bit like a barn that is the most visited dinner theater in America and has become the center of a bit of a quarrel.

[00:02:28]

So there's a stampede. Dolly Parton, Dixie Stampede callers called the Dixie Stampede. Hi, y'all. Come see my big sister to the world's most first in their tracks. And don't miss a caller. Go on line for reservations.

[00:02:43]

Actually, it's not called that anymore. That's sort of the crux of the drama.

[00:02:48]

Did you watch the car? I what? I left the car right? I'm not sure. That's fine.

[00:02:55]

Sheema and I visited on one of our trips to Dollywood. Now, you're not allowed to record inside. But people have producer Shimoni hey, hey, there are literally hundreds of recordings on YouTube, so we're going to use a few of those just to give you a sense of how it goes. OK.

[00:03:10]

OK, so basically, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to have your attention, please. You walk into the arena. It's huge. I wouldn't say it's a football field. I would say it's like an Olympic size pool. But like with arena seats all around, it's like going to the rodeo. Basically, it's like going to the rodeo. It's like a teenager in the center of this massive oval. How many seats was it again? It was 1000.

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Welcome to Dolly Parton's stampede. And the whole conceit of this situation. Besides eating a tremendous amount of food, I mean, a full chicken and a pork loin and some soup that has a lot of cream and a biscuit.

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It was a lot of food.

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Besides that out a food. Good evening, ladies. And.

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You quickly find out you are in a competition, a friendly competition between neighbors and all you fine folks sitting over here tonight are cheering for the door.

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The whole arena is split in half. On one side, you've got the north and on the other side it's down the south.

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And the announcer who rides in on this horse on his steed, the winner here, what they just called you, he encourages each side to jeer at the other.

[00:04:30]

Sounds like five words to me. Now to you. He asks you to kind of jeer at them, and then he goes to the south side and he tells the south side, you know, who are those northerners to put a bunch of foul smelling gold, pigs, bird John Polecats. Good. Punch your way out of a wet paper bag. They're really so. And then all of a sudden and here comes. Twelve riders on horseback storming to the arena, about half of them wearing red and half of them wearing blue red s blue north.

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They started zipping around the ring. They look gorgeous.

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They're waving. Everyone starts cheering. The riders are jumping up on top of their horse, standing, riding them, jumping off, flipping down into the sand and then jumping back onto the horse.

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It was I was it was really impressive. Oh, my God, yeah. And then. The teams start to compete. They do a bunch of writing competitions and the cowboy shows is underway. Cowboy jouster. Kids from each side, they chase chickens at one point said the pigs come out, little piglets with capes raced across the arena.

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Ours were quite mighty.

[00:05:55]

And then he realized, you're eating pork. And then let me just talk to the weirdness. But all like you are you are watching this. You are pounding lemonade.

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Yeah, they are serving you lemonade in these giant gallon sized cups shaped like boots and you're drinking gallons of lemonade. The sugar is hitting your bloodstream and you're flying.

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But in the back of your mind, you're having these thoughts like civil war as a friendly rivalry. Was the civil war friendly, wasn't it really about slavery? Well, yes, but of course, bringing up slavery would be a downer.

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So it's not it's not going to bring in the money.

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This is Patricia Davis, cultural studies professor at Northeastern University. She grew up in the South, writes a lot about Southern identity. She calls places like the Dixie Stampede the tourist imaginary.

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You know, in terms of civil war, the tourist imaginary would be, you know, the antebellum south, you know, the huge plantation houses, the you know, the flowery belles, the, you know, the noble gentleman.

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And, you know, everybody's happy. There is no slavery. There is no discussion of exactly what exploitation led to that grandeur. It's just the grandeur that's displayed up until a few years ago.

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The stampede hit all of those points.

[00:07:19]

You had least at one location, a giant plantation backdrop, Southern Belles dancing and big skirts. Writers for the South would come out in uniforms that were Confederate gray.

[00:07:30]

Writers for the North would be in union blue. And there were even signs over the bathrooms that said Northerners only southerners own them. The show we saw, those notes were a little more muted, but troubling thoughts would enter the mind.

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But any time they did.

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It's brilliant theater. This is Classics professor Helen Morales. She wrote about the finale of the Dixie Stampede in her book Pilgrimage to Dollywood.

[00:08:02]

There was a collective gasp at the beauty of the spectacle. Before the audience could reflect upon the results of the civil conflict, we are the United States of America I. The grand finale erupted in a crescendo of patriotism to. Forces counted information with their riders wearing lighted costumes, red, white and blue and waving the American flag.

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Are you proud? Are you proud to be an American?

[00:08:40]

Boom. The emcee, a super sized image of a resplendent red, white and blue Dolly Parton that fills the entire screen at the end of the stadium responded, no north. No South. No East. No West. But one United States of America, freedom and justice for all is here, Doley is America.

[00:09:11]

The crowd erupts, screaming, clapping and stamping. It was such an overwhelming experience. That, you know, as soon as I wanted, as soon as my critical self kicked in and I thought, hang on, that's an appalling way to write history, there'd be a flame thrower or something to distract to distract her. It's hard to stay in one place. Ironic, serious, critical. It's it's it's difficult for me to be critical of Dolly Parton that I feel like I'm betraying myself.

[00:09:44]

Helen, if you recall from the first episode, is a huge Dolly fan, I mean, her song, Light of a Clear Blue Morning has really helped me out of many a blue period, she says while researching her book. This was the one place in the dolly verse that didn't quite land right for her.

[00:09:59]

And she realized there's a real big divide between the dolly she grew up with, the woman, you know, sassing back to her boss in the movie nine to five, you know, wit and Verve, staunch supporter of LGBTQ and this other idea of Dolly that she encountered in the south and especially at the stampede.

[00:10:19]

It's a more conservative version. I think, you know, as Nadine Hobbs said at the beginning, Dolly can pull off contradictions that no one else can pull off. But then.

[00:10:33]

I was twelve, twenty, seventeen. You're looking at live pictures out of Charlottesville, Virginia, this is where violent clashes have broken out between white nationalist and counterprotest their black lives matter. As you may remember in Charlottesville, there had been a movement to take down two Confederate statues and some people who didn't want that to happen. Groups including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi gathered to defend the statue. Things turned violent almost immediately. One person is dead and 19 injured after a speeding vehicle drove into a group of protesters marching peacefully through downtown Charlotte.

[00:11:13]

And suddenly this conversation, which had been bubbling for a while, burst out onto the national stage. Questions about who gets to write the history that we take as fact, who gets to be honored?

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Demonstrators took the debate over Confederate monuments to the streets of Richmond, Virginia, today.

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Baltimore's mayor ordered the city's four Confederate monuments removed.

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And in the midst of all of this rethinking and taking down of monuments, hello, this is Aisha captivation.

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A woman named Aisha Harris, a New York based writer who worked at Slate at the time she was on Slack.

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This is in the days after Charlottesville and one of her colleagues message saying, hey, have you heard about this thing that Dolly Parton does down in Pigeon Forge?

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Just kind of escalated from there. It was like, holy crap. Like, why did I not know this? I love Dolly Parton. Like what?

[00:12:05]

She decides to fly from New York to Pigeon Forge and do what is essentially sort of a theater review of the Dixie Stampede.

[00:12:13]

The tone was really funny, but also quite critical.

[00:12:16]

Why are there signs over the bathroom saying, northerners, southerners only? Why is there zero mention of slavery?

[00:12:22]

I was curious about the backlash. Like, did you what what was the result when you wrote the article?

[00:12:27]

Well, it's probably actually the most backlash I've had for peace since I wrote about Santa Claus.

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I don't recall that. Did writing about Santa Claus.

[00:12:41]

Oh, that was good of you. Oh, my God. Yeah, that was me.

[00:12:45]

What she's referring to there is an article that she wrote in December of 2013 that argued that maybe it's time we stop representing Santa Claus as an old white man.

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How about let's mix in a penguin? Because a penguin is a bird that has no race.

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But if you want to map race onto it, it's black and white.

[00:13:04]

She says a lot of people didn't like that suggestion, but when it came to her article about the stampede, they really didn't like it.

[00:13:12]

You deserve to burn and die in hell or like there was one. I can't remember exactly what it said, but it sort of implied something about my family. And I was like, OK, this was getting a little weird. One of the things that people kept saying was and this is like the tweets and emails, Dolly Parton has done more for other people than you could ever imagine you could do. She's donated money to this cause this blah, blah, blah purpose.

[00:13:37]

And the thing about is that I wrote the piece as a Dolly fan.

[00:13:43]

Did you grow up with her music and you grew up with her music? But then, you know, I watched nine to five for the first time. I read about her. And she's such as she's been she's such a smart businesswoman. I think that's something to celebrate and to to kind of look up to you.

[00:14:01]

She says that she just wanted to point out that even amazing people have blind spots or not that long after that at the end came out.

[00:14:09]

So I can understand why that sort of love of this fake Southern identity, I can see how that could creep its way into her work. But it's twenty, seventeen now. And and it baffles me that thirty years later, this show still exists.

[00:14:29]

Well, I mean, it's something that we're talking about for a number of years. This is Pete Owens, the vice president of marketing and public relations for Dollywood. Before we just start, just to sort of like because we're on the radio, there's a lot of sound. It's good sound. I like the sound. It's nice ambience. Where are we? We're sitting in the lower lobby of Hollywood's dream of more resort and spa adjacent to the Dollywood theme park.

[00:14:53]

Gotcha.

[00:14:54]

According to Pete, they had already been talking about making some changes even before this article came out.

[00:15:01]

So we we started to talk about it a couple of years ago. You had heard criticisms, I imagine, not as much as you would think, honestly. I mean, I think most people got the fact that, you know, it's a good natured competition between one side of the arena and the other side of the arena. Conversations were you having, like, leading up to the thing? What were some of those discussions about?

[00:15:23]

Well, I mean, I think is does that really describe what it is we're doing now? I mean, you guys have seen the show. The discussions were does that really describe us? Moving forward is. You know, is this really who we are everywhere is becoming more diverse and we want to be as Dolly is, as inclusive as we possibly can. So Pete says after the article ended, the team huddled together with Dolly and we'll hear from her in a second, and they decided to make some changes.

[00:16:01]

First, they decided to remove all the plantation imagery and any overt references to the civil war. So, for instance, the uniforms changed colors. There was no longer grey and blue. The northerners were given red and the southerners were given blue. They got rid of those signs on the bathroom. They sort of threw out a few of the traditional music numbers, wrote some new tunes.

[00:16:26]

And most importantly, we made the decision to to just remove just to remove a Dixie from the name part and announce the show is dropping the word Dixie from its name, Dolly Parton.

[00:16:40]

Dixie Stampede got rid of the Dixie and is now Dolly Parton stamp.

[00:16:46]

Anything that had a logo on it or a reference on it to the name will change.

[00:16:50]

The Dixie Stampede sign still stands here in Pigeon Forge. But take a look over this way. Something looks different.

[00:16:57]

In one news report, you can see giant cranes removing the word Dixie off the front of the building.

[00:17:02]

Crews have been out here removing the letters on the building and anything else that has the word Dixie on it.

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I take I'm happy that like they did that. That's Aisha Harris again, this time in the studio.

[00:17:15]

You know, I like to imagine that maybe she had a change of heart. And if that's the case, then I appreciate her even more.

[00:17:23]

But as you can imagine, not everybody felt that way.

[00:17:28]

We're bringing people flag signs. We will have people out here coming up. We follow the story through a few more twists and turns and Dolly herself will weigh in. Dolly Parton's America will continue in a moment. This is Dolly Parton's America, Jed Cima picking back up with the story, Dolly and her team announced they're changing the name of the stampede almost immediately.

[00:17:59]

You can't rewrite history just by taking the name off of it. The decision to take the Dixie out of the attraction that had been called Dixie Stampede rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Dixie is part of my heritage. Protesters voiced their concerns outside what is now called Dolly Parton campaign.

[00:18:16]

Basically what happened is like if you look at a lot of the different counterprotests that were happening in response to statues being removed across the country, you see a lot of the same faces, the same groups. They're sort of on a circuit going from place to place.

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And when the name change was announced, some of those same protesters, Narborough, you all have bowed down to pick bullcrap.

[00:18:37]

They diverted their travel plans, came to Pigeon Forge. We came too far to be knocked back down into this and did their thing. Many of the people there say the term Dixie refers to the South and its fight in the civil war.

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And all of a sudden you are attempting to rewrite history now. So we are not trying to rewrite history.

[00:18:55]

DOLLIS Now, Dixie Stampede.

[00:19:00]

It was all wrapped up in that larger drama. Now, this was a very much a national conversation with a lot of different groups on the outside weighing in. We were sort of curious to know, just like what do people in the area think about this?

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But before we could even have that thought or ask that question, we got a call, I believe, in the United States of America as the government of the people, by the people or the people is just powers are derived from the consent of the governed. We got a call from a woman.

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I'm Evelyn Miller, who told us that she was related to Dolly.

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She's my fourth cousin. Can you can you kind of step through that?

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So Evelin happens to be a regent at the Andrew Vogel chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

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I've been in the D.A. probably 12 years, but I stepped out for a while because I saw the D.A., as she calls it, is a group whose members have to trace back their lineage to someone who either supported or fought in the American Revolutionary War back in 1775, six seven after one of their monthly meetings. I've only met with Jardín me and she immediately whipped out her phone.

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OK, now here we come down and open this genealogy app. OK, here we go.

[00:20:18]

OK, say it to your fourth cousin says Dolly Parton is possibly your fourth cousin. OK. OK, now Katherine Powell, who married the Bohannan. So Katherine was 1733, which makes us note not removed at all. Katherine Powell is Dolly's fourth great grandmother and she tried to walk me through the sequence of connections, but it was felt like trigonometry.

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They had Betsy, Elizabeth and by the way, could you could you repeat that Evelyn was not the only one there claiming a Dolly link. We met another guy named Art.

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Two of his daughters married to the water Gatlinburg, and they had lots of children who also claimed that he was always fourth cousin. My granddaughter is friends with Dolly's great niece and they have sleepovers. It seems like everybody in this region has a connection to Dolly or says they do. Well, yes.

[00:21:10]

So it would seem in any case, we had chicken and brownies. We watched a presentation about the history of Scotland.

[00:21:16]

And since these are people who obsess about history and lineage, after lunch, we sort of turn the conversation to the subject of the stamp.

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I don't think that she should have changed the name as I was growing up, because everyone say, OK, please don't change that. I don't think it has changed you. No, no, no. You think she should have changed it? My family is from my side. And you were from the union. So lovely. They weren't Confederates. East Tennessee was mostly union.

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One of the interesting wrinkles about having this debate in East Tennessee is that this part of Tennessee was initially pro union during the civil war.

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They were annexed by the Confederacy unwillingly. So there's a very independent like don't tell me whose team I'm on.

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I'm on my own team.

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Don't confuse me with the rest of the South or anyone else kind of vibe that you get when you talk to people here. And it's partly for that reason that most of the people at the table with us, the ten or so people we were talking to, fetch my bags.

[00:22:17]

And you're talking about Dixie Stampede, flag statues and everything else.

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They found the whole idea that you would erase the word to make someone else somewhere else feel better, kind of irritating you.

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They were OK for one hundred and fifty years and now all of a sudden they're no good. They don't make any sense to me at all. I think it's people. Are you willing to fight in a civil war for the right to protect my country? Yes, my ancestors did it. I guess I have to do it too, if it came to that.

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But not everybody felt that way. What's coming to my mind in this discussion is when you know better, you're supposed to do. But times were different back then. Times are changing. Daily felt that she needed to change the name.

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But, you know, all these things were OK for. 150 years and how far are you going to go, right? That's Pew in the church in Alexandria that Washington's Pew historic Virginia church will remove a memorial plaque honoring America's first president. It took his name to to Washington and Jefferson are on Mount Rushmore. They owned slaves. Should we take them down? Are we going to change history?

[00:23:34]

We're going to have all the statues down. If we tear the statues down, then we need to learn all the history books. But the critics, I think, would agree with you that the reason they wanted her to change it is that the actual story being told in it was itself changing history or not acknowledging history. We have to acknowledge history here. We have not really been here.

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The conversation started to feel a bit familiar and sort of like one of those Mobius strips, those weird shapes that kind of you go in and out and in and out and around, and you're never quite sure which side of the shape you're on.

[00:24:06]

One person would say we shouldn't erase history, and then someone else would jump in and say, that's not what's happening here. These statues and monuments and memorials were all put up long after the civil war was over, mostly during the Jim Crow era. If anything, these things themselves are an attempt to rewrite history, which seems to have worked.

[00:24:24]

By the way, if you look at surveys that have been done on this, when people were asked what do they think the main cause of the civil war is, 48 percent said mainly about states rights. Only 38 percent said mainly about slavery.

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I mean, it's just a fact the civil war was fought to end slavery. Clearly, we have a deep problem in this country.

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If a majority of Americans don't think that and you could argue that these monuments and even things like the Dixie Stampede, which staged the civil war as kind of like a pillow fight, there's a danger to it.

[00:24:59]

And you're teaching kids a particular sanitized version of history. That was scholar Patricia Davis again, by the way, and if you grew up with the Dolly Parton version of it, you know, it would be very difficult to understand the divides that we have now. OK, so question three, in our first interview, we talked really briefly about the situation with the stampede. So now that we're sort of looking back on it, can you explain your thinking behind changing the name?

[00:25:31]

And what do you feel like you learned from that experience?

[00:25:34]

Well, there's several reasons that we changed and a few reasons maybe I should say a couple of reasons. One being that out of ignorance, people do things you don't know, a lot of things that I wrong, just out of pure ignorance, really, because you grow up a certain way and you don't know the Dixie. We always thought way down in the land of Dixie, you know, it's like a Dixieland Dixieland music Dixie. You know, I just Don Dixie as a part of the, you know, part of America.

[00:26:08]

And it was offensive, you know, because like I say, out of ignorance, you don't know that you're hurt. And people never thought about it being, you know, about slavery or any of that. But when it was brought to our attention and some woman wrote about it and I thought, well, Lord have mercy. I would never want to hurt anybody for any reason. And being a business woman, we didn't really have that many people say anything about it.

[00:26:36]

But I thought, Lord, if I offended one person as a business woman, I don't want to do that. So we completely cleared all that out and start over that. But we I just wanted to fix it because I don't want to ever hurt or offend anyone. And so I did it as a good faith effort to show that it was never meant to cause anyone any pain.

[00:26:59]

Sitting there.

[00:27:00]

I thought back to our conversation with Aisha Harris, who had been wondering, honestly, I'm just curious as to like does she really like did she understand where I was coming from?

[00:27:11]

So it sounds like you hear that you heard the criticism and I hear any criticism.

[00:27:15]

I hear it because if it's hurt somebody, I'm certainly not about that. But then the name change we are planning to be we do have other Dixie. We have the stampedes now. They're just calling a stampede or just a stampede. But we're actually going to be all over possibly all over the world with that. So it just made more sense because we have those beautiful horses just to have the word stampede. And it wasn't like a location. So it really in my mind, it was a business choice as well.

[00:27:54]

She said that one of the main reasons for the change in this, I didn't see coming. Was that they want to expand? We were looking at expansion in a couple of other areas, one of the West Coast, one and Southwest, I talked briefly with Pete about this, too. He said one of the things that happened is they started to see research that showed that nationally, internationally, the awareness of Dixie and Dixie's brand awareness, if you will, is shrinking rapidly.

[00:28:18]

So in order to be able to continue to expand our business, that's why the decision was OK.

[00:28:27]

So going back to Dolly. Yeah. Sitting there talking about this. At that moment was really interesting for me because when she said, I don't want to hurt people, I thought, yes, I get it.

[00:28:41]

Everything I have known of her in the last two years of interviewing her tells me that that is true. This is not somebody who ever wants to hurt somebody, all the molecules of her being. Seem to be aligned in that direction, so I think that's why people are called to her. But there's also that other aspect of Dolly, which is a laser focused, pragmatic business person. And both of those things were there so powerfully in that one moment.

[00:29:09]

And I was like, wow, I'm not used to seeing these two things in the same person in this way. I don't think personally that you can have a game about the civil war without talking about all of it, all the ugly parts to. Because we're still fighting it on so many levels, but I trust that if people say they are hurt, she will listen and she will maybe change it again.

[00:29:38]

I don't know. You know, speaking of which, you know, what's funny is a couple of days ago, I called up Pete again. I didn't record this call because I was just a fact check. And I just asked, have you have you guys discussed or just thought about just removing north and south, just taking out the thorns of this thing, keep the competition, the horses, the the beautiful people and the pigs. We love the pigs.

[00:30:01]

Yeah, but just take out north and south, protect themselves, protect the future. It would help everything. And he said no.

[00:30:07]

Yeah. But then I asked him, you know, the just to check are the costumes still red and blue. And he said actually they've changed.

[00:30:15]

I said they changed again. And he said yeah, they're red and green. I was like red and green. Why are they red and green? And he said, Cima Christmas, North Pole versus South Pole. That's what they're doing now. Yep. Ba ba ba, everybody's starving, let's. Hold your horses, got a million courses and I'm fixing to treat Jeremi go and help your mother Jane and Joan Yuku has Tzachi go get your brother Amy and their mother.

[00:30:49]

Everybody's happy. How did you know that I'm about to serve a Christmas dinner country style? Is it is it true that you are right now having a Christmas party, but you stepped out of your own Christmas party to sit in a car and take our call?

[00:31:10]

Yeah, it's funny. Listen, I love I love what you are doing. And to me, it would be amazing if we could if we could get the best of Dolly Parton up there.

[00:31:20]

So just to radically shift the mood one more time, literally minutes, maybe, maybe not minutes, but less than a day before our deadline, we became aware of a situation developing in my home state of Tennessee involving a Republican state representative.

[00:31:35]

So my name is Jeremy Faison. I'm the Tennessee state representative for the 11th House District. That's Green and Jefferson County.

[00:31:43]

The reason we called Representative Faizan dragged him out of his own party that he was having at his house in the Smokies is because of a Dolly related statement he made a couple of days ago that went a little viral to set it up in Tennessee each year. The governor must, by law, sign a proclamation honoring six notable figures. Three of them happened to be Confederate generals Robert E. Lee Jefferson Davis and a guy named Nathan Bedford Forrest.

[00:32:11]

Nathan Bedford Force is a former Confederate general. He was also heavily involved with the KKK. He is widely believed to be the first grand wizard of the KKK.

[00:32:22]

Not only does he have his own proclamation day every year, but his bronze bust is one of eight busts placed in the hallowed alcoves of the Tennessee state legislature.

[00:32:33]

He was never put in our capital until 1978. Wow. We put him there after Jim Crow. And in 1980, the grand wizard of the KKK came to our capital and had a press conference in front of the bust of Nathan Bedford for us. Oh, my God. Over my years in Nashville, I've seen every year my fellow friends and legislators that are African-American. It brings an enormous amount of grief to them.

[00:33:04]

It's been a controversy for a while, but for years, he says he was the guy who would say, guys, how about let's just preserve history.

[00:33:12]

Some of our history is ugly. He met Jesus before he died and got right. And I was very I defended him.

[00:33:20]

And then he says one day, about two years ago, one of my friends from Memphis is a legislator. He came up to me and said, Have you ever actually read any of the writings and newspaper clippings from that time? And I'll be honest, I never had. And he brought them to my office. And as I read them, it tore me up. What did you read? Well, the first thing I read was, was the the Fort Pillow massacre.

[00:33:46]

And what does that? Well, that's where a group of union soldiers who the majority were African-American men, surrendered in peace. And they basically put them in a log cabin, set it on fire. Oh, my God. It was pretty it was pretty decent. It was it was horrible. He helped in the formation of the KKK. I was grieved. I have a biracial son. And I was like, man, that's that's pretty bad.

[00:34:12]

And then I'm thinking, well, we have eight alcoves. That's the most prestigious spot. And all of Tennessee to honor Tennesseean. And I have a biracial son and I have a daughter. And I started thinking to myself, wait a minute, if we're going to preserve history, why aren't we preserving all of history? Was there seven white guys and only one African-American that's not representative of who we are in Tennessee? We're a very loving and diverse state.

[00:34:36]

We're a bigger state than that. Let's sit at a minimum, rotate these bussed out of here and bring more bussed in. And at one time, I told a reporter, you know, the majority of the people who built this, the state capitol, were slaves. Could not one of our Alekos benefit them. And then I started thinking, but I'd really love to see a woman. And one of my first thoughts with somebody like Dolly Parton.

[00:35:02]

I am sick, and why do you think, in my opinion, Dolly Parton is a Tennessee treasure, but even more than that, Dolly Parton is a national treasure?

[00:35:14]

You know, I could start with all five of my kids have benefited for her from her her drive to end illiteracy and imagination library. Oh, my goodness. It's an amazing thing. And at Dollywood, all of my children have gone to her imagination library and watched those books. Those storybooks come to life.

[00:35:35]

So representin, faced and made the suggestion via text to a reporter at The Tennessean said, hey, I think we should replace the bust of the first grand wizard of the KKK with someone like Dolly Parton. The reporter then wrote the story. And that article really just in the last day or so, has gotten picked up by tons of national media.

[00:35:53]

And now it seems at least plausible that when the historical committee that decides which busts should and shouldn't be in the alcoves of the state legislature when they meet in January, it seems at least plausible that they will consider this.

[00:36:09]

I'm hoping our historical commission at the Capitol will do the right thing. Let me ask you from your position advocating for taking Nathan Bedford Forrest out of the legislature, is that an easy position for you to take or a lonely one? Obviously, I have some colleagues who are not at all in agreement with me. Some of my colleagues say, hey, I wish you wouldn't have said that and not at all trying to be offensive to anybody who loves our Confederate Veterans.

[00:36:36]

The truth is, I am a son of a Confederate veteran. If you look at history, you'll find a man by the name of Paul Faizan. Paul Faizan was actually at Appomattox with Robert E. Lee. And I hold dear to the truth of everything that took place in our civil war. And I want that preserved. I want to make sure we never repeat that again. But I think we can preserve history, tell the truth about history, but also preserve history in such a way that everybody gets included in our states, the best managed state in America.

[00:37:07]

I mean, we've got some great things to to be excited about. And this just to me, is one of the things that we don't have anything to be excited about with this list. Let's put some money in there like Dolly Parton that we could be excited about. That was a wash, not Stanzler. Listen, I want to thank you for taking time out of your Christmas party to talk to us. Hey, God bless you. Merry Christmas.

[00:37:33]

Likewise. Well, there you go. Dolly Parton's America was produced, written and edited by me. And she the I brought to you by awesome audio of some audio and WNYC studios with production help from Harry Fortuna, thanks to our bluegrass trio, Steph Jenkins, Stephanie Coleman and Courtney Hartman.

[00:37:51]

And also thanks to the folks at Sony Music and to Lynne Sacco Davidson, Lulu Miller, Suzy Lichtenberg, Susan Wheeler, Sam Sheehy, Faith Held and Joel Ibut. Just a reminder, we have partnered with Apple Music to bring you a companion playlist that's updated each week with music you hear in this episode, plus some of our favorites. You can find all of that at Dolly Parton's America Dog. Stay tuned.

[00:38:13]

December 31st, we will deliver the final episode of Dolly Parton's America.

[00:38:18]

Here's a preview. One last question just to bring it back. Are so good, though. I mean, if you had if you had to give the final concert, the concert, what would be the last song? Well, the song I called my show was always and probably always will is do you have a vision for the next 10 years, for the next 20 years, like 100 years?

[00:38:37]

Yes. When I'm gone, there's enough stuff to to go on forever. We'll close out the series talking with Dolly about her faith and her future. That's on the final episode of Dolly Parton's America in two weeks.