THE NAME GAME. Some commenters, in response to this post on George Allen's turn as a Confederate officer in a 2003 movie, are alleging that Allen's child Forrest Allen was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate cavalry officer who was a founder of the Ku Klux Klan after the war and whose name remains a byword for racially-charged controversy. The same allegation has been leveled anonymously on other blogs, such as NotLarrySabato, RaisingKaine, and the Commonwealth Conservative, and repeated over at Virginia blog Bacon's Rebellion. A reader, upping the allegations, e-mails:
It's even worse than that. The other two kids are named Brooke and Tyler. Robert Charles Tyler was the last Confederate general slain in battle. John M. Brooke was Confederate commander of ordinance, and a munitions specialist in Richmond. He defected from the Union Army to join the Confederacy.
I have no knowledge of why Allen's kids are named as they are, but it should be noted, in his defense, that the names he chose for his children, all born since he married for the second time in 1986, are also ones that experienced major upsurges in popularity just around the time he was having them. The name Forrest jumped in popularity during the late 1980s, then peaked and crashed in the early 1990s, according to the online Baby Name Wizard. The name Tyler grew in popularity from 202nd place in the 1970s to 9th place by the 1990s. And Brooke rose from 186th in the 70s to number 54 by the 1990s. So to the extent that Allen's kids were given names that were all increasing in popularity during the years in which they were born, Allen was not going against any particular social grain or making an obvious statement in naming them.
On the other hand, Barnie Day, a Democratic former Virginia delegate, wrote a column in the Daily Press of Newport News, Va., last July offering advice to the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial candidates about how to deal with state politicians, and had this to say about Allen (via Nexis):
Memo to Kaine: Don't mean-mouth George Allen. Whatever you do, don't bring up the noose in his office, the Confederate flag, or his adulation of Nathan Bedford Forrest, even if the Confederate general did found the Klan when the war was over. Don't bring that up. Look, I've been dog-bit enough. I know what I'm talking about. If ever you find one sleeping, leave him be. Besides, Allen may well be president some day and he's got a long and detailed memory. (emphasis added)
So at least one former state rep thinks Allen adores a founder of the KKK, which is, in and of itself, kind of creepy -- until you realize that Day's first knowledge of Bedford Forrest appears to have come from one of the anonymous comments over at the Commonwealth Conservative in February making the allegation that Allen's kid was named after him.
So what's the take-home? Simply that there are already a fair number of anonymous folks using the Internet to promote the image of Allen as a beyond-the-pale racist sympathizer within his own state, and that he's really going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to avoid being painted into kooksville corner nationwide by 2008. There's too much dry tinder lying around his grounds for something not to catch fire.
UPDATE: Another journalist writes in to say, "My friend from Alabama says that any white person in the south named Forrest is named after Nathan Bedford Forrest. Without exception." Anyone out there who can provide additional regional insight into this -- and why there was a sudden upsurge in the popularity of the name in the late 1980s?
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(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)