JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan is urging the Duval County School Board not to change the name of a local high school.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate Army general, grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and the namesake of a high school on Jacksonville's Westside.
For many, a school name evokes a sense of pride. That hasn't been the case recently at N.B. Forrest High.
More than 117,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the school district change the name.
Organizer Omotayo Richmond argues the name sends the wrong message and represents a man who enslaved, slaughtered and disenfranchised blacks in America.
But not everyone agrees with the petition. Action News obtained a letter sent to all seven Duval County School Board members from the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"When I found out it was an actual KKK organization I wanted to burn the letter and wash my hands immediately," said school board member Jason Fischer.
Action News reporter Ryan Smith made some calls and tracked the letter back to the Missouri-based group. Smith spoke with the group's leader, who said he stands by it.
The letter asks the school board to "take a decisive stand to protect the name of the school based on the true historical facts surrounding this valiant man of honor."
The letter attempts to defend the KKK, stating the group was born to "protect defenseless southerners from criminal activities perpetrated against them by Yankee carpet baggers ..."
The letter goes on to use a racial slur against African-Americans, which Action News chose not to repeat.
"At first I thought it might be some sort of a gag or political stunt and then as I looked into it, I found out that it was an actual organization ... I was outraged by it," said Fischer.
School board members met last week to discuss the issue. Board member Connie Hall, who represents the area covering N.B. Forrest High, is spending a month gathering feedback from the community before the board makes any decisions.
Fischer is hosting a town-hall meeting to discuss the DCPS budget but predicts the public will bring up the racially-charged issue.
The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mandarin High School.
This isn't the first time there's been an outcry. In 2006, folks suggested changing the name to Eartha M.M. White -- after a Jacksonville philanthropist.
In 2008, the Duval County School Board voted 5-2 to keep the same name, but current Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said he has no problem with change, as long it goes through the proper channels.
We have attached the letter here, but warning: you may find some of the language offensive.