Rep Tommy Benton

Georgia lawmaker State Rep. Tommy Benton has sponsored two bills in an effort to preserve the South’s history, including establishing a holiday in honor of the Confederacy. (David Goldman/AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia lawmaker criticized for recent comments about the Ku Klux Klan has withdrawn bills honoring the Confederacy.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ( last week that the KKK wasn’t racist but was a group of vigilantes trying to keep law and order.

The newspaper reported Monday that Benton withdrew his name from bills formally recognizing Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday as state holidays and restoring old street names that once honored veterans. That would include a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlanta.

He also withdrew a constitutional amendment to protect Stone Mountain. The park features a large carving of Confederate leaders and is a Confederate memorial by state law.

House Speaker David Ralston says he appreciates Benton’s withdrawal.