Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Over the past two years, State Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, called African-American slaves “property” and fostered legislation requiring the state to recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate History Month.

He also said the Ku Klux Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said.

“It made a lot of people straighten up,” he said. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”

So why did House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, appoint the controversial legislator to a special committee to study civics education in Georgia’s public schools?

Check his resume, said Kaleb McMichen, Ralston’s spokesman.

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“Chairman Benton is a retired teacher who holds degrees in History and Middle School Education. He spent 30 years in the classroom teaching subjects including Georgia history and American history,” McMichen said in an emailed statement.

Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose’s response was as outraged as McMichen’s was routine.

“Speaker Ralston believes in the premise of white supremacy,” he said.

But what does Benton’s appointment to the study committee really mean? Read this week’s AJC Watchdog column for more.

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