Memphis Just Doesn’t Get It
It amazes me how Memphis just can’t get over its past and embrace it instead of trying to erase it. I always loved living outside Memphis because of all its rich history, including Sun Studios, Graceland, and yes, Confederate monuments. The first time I visited Memphis before moving there, I saw the grand statue in what was then known as Forrest Park, and recognized the man on the horse as General Nathan Bedford Forrest. My son thought I was a total Civil War geek when I saw it and exclaimed, “There’s General Forrest!” Memphis has no idea what gems it has with these Civil War statues. Instead, they have chosen to eradicate them because a few complainers have decided that all things Confederate are offensive. I don’t know how wrong they can be. I’m not from the South, but I did my research, and General Forrest deserves to be celebrated because he was a genius in strategy and was one of the first to set his slaves free (unlike many northern generals). In fact, many of his slaves chose to fight for him by their own accord. It’s sad how history has been twisted and altered, and how people today refuse to educate themselves and read to learn the truth for themselves.
The City of Memphis filed a petition in Davidson County Chancery Court on Monday, Dec. 11. Officials asked for judicial review of the Tennessee Historical Commission’s denial of a request to remove the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park.
Protesters have called for the statue’s removal, saying it represents racism and bigotry. City leaders have discussed ways to relocate the statue of Forrest and move his remains, which are buried under the monument.
On Oct. 13, the Nashville-based historical commission denied the City’s request for a waiver to Tennessee’s Heritage Protection Act, which limits the removal or changing of historical memorials on public property. The waiver would allow the City to relocate the statue.
State Law passed in 2013 prevents the removal or relocation of statues or monuments honoring U.S. wars located on public property. The 2013 act also says no statue of a historical military figure may be renamed or rededicated.
In 2016, the General Assembly changed the act. It now prohibits the removal or relocation of any statue or memorial honoring a historic conflict, historic entity or historic figure from public property.
City attorney Allan Wade argues in the petition that Memphis filed its waiver request under the original act, which does not say that statues of historical military figures can’t be removed – only that they can’t be renamed or rededicated. The city claims the waiver request filed March 7, 2016, came before changes made to the act to include language applicable to the Forrest statue went into effect.
“By its express terms the 2013 act does not prevent a Historical Military Figure Memorial from being relocated, removed, altered or otherwise disturbed as long as it is not renamed or rededicated, ” the petition states.
The commission’s waiver denial was illegal and arbitrary, Wade argues. The petition seeks a decree from the court ordering that the city has the right to remove or relocate the Forrest statue.
Commission Executive Director E. Patrick McIntyre Jr. declined to comment.