A senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs said he removed a portrait of the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard from his Washington, D.C., office after offended employees began signing a petition to present to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
David J. Thomas Sr. is deputy executive director of VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, which certifies veteran-owned businesses seeking government contracts. His senior staff is mostly African American.
Thomas said he took down the painting Monday after a Washington Post reporter explained that its subject, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a Confederate general and slave trader who became the KKK’s first figurehead in 1868. He said he was unaware of Forrest’s affiliation with the hate group, which formed after the Civil War to maintain white control over newly freed blacks through violence and intimidation.