Ga. Lawmaker Known For Racial Controversy Loses Chairmanship

Georgia Rep. Tommy Benton drew national headlines in 2016 when he said the Ku Klux Klan, “was not such a racist thing, but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”

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The headlines came again this year when he pushed for legislation to honor Georgia’s role in the Civil War, leaving out any mention of slavery. Reps. Alan Powell, Steve Tarvin, and Jesse Petrea co-sponsored the measure.

Throughout all the controversy, Benton remained chair of the House Human Relations and Aging Committee. He was recently appointed to a House Study Committee on Civics Education in Georgia.

But he’s lost those positions after sending House Speaker David Ralston an article titled “The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States,” according to Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen.

“Sentiment of the mailer was not in keeping with the speaker’s outlook and philosophy and he’s making some changes,” McMichen said. “Speaker Ralston’s focus is on the future, not the past.”

Historians largely agree slavery was the cause of the Civil War, and the National Parks Service has a 28-page brochure titled “Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War.” The subhead reads: “A number of issues ignited the Civil War: states’ rights, the role of the federal government, the preservation of the Union, the economy; but all were inextricably bound to the institution of slavery.”

Benton, who represents the area around the city of Jefferson, near Athens, declined to comment for this story through an aide.