MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis City Council approved a resolution to move the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Mayor Wharton said this is a movement designed to honor Forrest's will and testament, in which his last wish was that he and his wife be buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
The Forrests were originally buried at Elmwood, but the city created Forrest Park in 1904, removing the Forrests' bodies from Elmwood and relocating them to Union Avenue. The park has since been renamed Health Sciences Park.
Opponents to uprooting the monument and remains said the Tennessee General Assembly's passage of the Heritage Protection Act in 2013
prohibits the renaming, removal, or relocating of any military monument or item.
"That Protection Act, I feel, would also apply to the bust at the State Capitol, and the State Legislature is now making plans to remove that," said Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery. "If they can remove their bust, why can't we remove the Forrest statue?"
To move the statue, Wharton would need approval from the Tennessee Historical Commission, and possibly the County Commission.
Wharton would also need the green light from Forrest's descendants and a Chancery Court.
Tuesday, the council voted on a companion resolution and ordinance triggering the following:
- Condemnation of the equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest
- Assignment and Sale of equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest
- Relocation and Removal of equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest
- Removal And Reinterment of Remains of All Deceased Persons Buried In The Burial Ground At Health Sciences Park
The resolution only required a majority vote, but the ordinance required a two-thirds majority vote. Read the RESOLUTION here; Read the ORDINANCE here.
"What's happening here is we are seeing political entities such as the County Commission, the State Legislature are all taking a stance on what is politically correct, and that is removing symbols of racism and bigotry away from public property," Lowery added.
However, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Forrest's descendants will fight the ordinance and the resolution to the very end.
"Forrest Park didn't exist at the time, but Forrest was such an inspiration to Memphis, to Mid-Southerners, to military throughout," said Sons of
Confederate Veterans Leader Lee Millar. "Had Forrest Park been around, I'm sure he would have wanted to be buried in Forrest Park."
Memphis City Council members explained that if the resolution and ordinance are approved, the statue would be relocated at no cost to the city. Buyers are already interested in purchasing it.
City Council Attorney Allan Wade sent an email to the council Monday telling them the resolution would become effective Tuesday night, if approved.
The ordinance would need three readings and could be approved no sooner than August 4.