VA official displayed painting of Ku Klux Klan grand wizard in office, said he liked it

A senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs displayed a portrait of the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in his office in Washington, and only removed it after employees started a petition drive, according to The Washington Post.

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The executive director of the VA's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, David Thomas Sr., whose staff is mostly African-American, removed the painting on Monday, the Post reported, after employees signed petitions to hand over to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The painting is a portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and slave trader, who became the first leader of the KKK, the feared racist group formed after the Civil War, which intimidated and terrorized freed slaves to try and control them.

Thomas told a Washington Post reporter that he was unaware of Forrest's involvement with the hate group and that he liked the portrait, which shows Forrest astride a horse leaving a battlefield.

“It was just a beautiful print that I had purchased, and I thought it was very nice,” Thomas said.

He also said he only knew Forrest as a “Southern general in the Civil War” and had only recently hung the portrait when he changed offices.

Credit: Library of Congress/Via Wikicommons

Credit: Library of Congress/Via Wikicommons

Some employees told the Post they remember seeing the print in Thomas' office in 2013.

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Thomas, whose office oversees government contract certification for businesses owned by veterans, is not a political appointee, but a civil servant.

He said the print had been in his basement and that he had only recently hung it when he moved to a larger office at the VA’s administrative headquarters.

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