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.
Last week, the Sons of Confederate Veterans won a major victory in Memphis, Tennessee, after a judge decided that they had the right to sue the city for changing the names of three parks. Forrest Park, named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the primary subject of the suit, because the SCV had placed a large sign at the edge of the park designating it as “Forrest Park.” The city removed the sign without notice, and changed the name of the park to Health Sciences Park. They also did away with Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park, renaming them as well.
The ruling is a tremendous victory for Constitutional rights. To remove all things “Confederate” is a criminal offense and should not be taken lightly. Confederate veterans were designated as American veterans way back in 1906, when a Congressional Act was passed as a move toward reconciliation. To destroy or mutilate any veteran’s grave or marker is a Federal offense and should be treated accordingly.
This goes hand in hand with trying to do away with the Confederate battle flag – the flag for which these veterans so gallantly fought. It is disrespectful to omit the flag from public view because it is misconceived by a few. This has happened at Washington and Lee University. In the chapel where General Robert E. Lee is interred, Confederate flags have been removed. The Confederate battle flag that flew above the Confederate soldier’s monument on the State Capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina received national attention a couple of months ago after a massacre took place by a lunatic at a church, and was also removed.
Several schools around the country are debating whether or not to remove the flag. Although a small town in Virginia decided to retain the flag and their mascot name, “the Rebels,” and Gettysburg, South Dakota declined removing the Confederate battle flag from their town’s logo and police cars, other towns have caved under the pressure brought on by hate groups such as the NAACP. In Kentucky, the debate will continue later this month when board members discuss replacing the flag that was previously flying over an elementary school in Floyd County but was taken down.
Nathan Bedford Forrest’s statue and burial site are in Health Sciences Park, formerly named for the Confederate general. A state appeals court has kept alive the lawsuit over the renaming of that park and two others.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
The Tennessee Court of Appeals has revived a legal challenge to the city’s renaming of three Confederate-themed parks with a Friday, Aug. 21, ruling that keeps only one of the 15 plaintiffs intact.
The case involves a lawsuit filed in 2013 following the Memphis City Council’s decision to rename Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park. Shelby County Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong dismissed the suit, ruling that the plaintiffs had not established that they had a standing in the case.
But in its Friday ruling, the appeals court said the Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp #215 does have standing and remanded the case back to Shelby County Chancery Court.
The opinion, written by Appeals Court Judge Brandon O. Gibson, upheld Armstrong’s dismissal of the 14 other plaintiffs, including descendants of Forrest, Sons of Confederate Veterans International and the group Citizens to Save Our Parks Inc.
The distinction, according to the ruling, is that the Forrest camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans “suffered a distinct and palpable injury not common to the citizenry at large” when the council voted to change the name of the park honoring the Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. It’s new name is Health Sciences Park.
Gibson’s opinion specifically points to the chapter’s funding and installation of a 10-foot-long, 3,000-pound concrete marker at the edge of the park bearing the name “Forrest Park.”
The city’s removal of the marker was a pivotal moment that triggered a series of events, including a state law that bars renaming or removing monuments from parks that memorialize veterans and the wars they’ve served in.
Gibson also cited the SCV camp’s work in maintaining the park.
In a footnote, Gibson clarifies that the organization has standing to challenge the council’s action in renaming all three parks. But it notes the Chancery Court’s options include declaring the resolution invalid only in the case of the former Forrest Park, declaring the renaming of all three parks invalid, or upholding the renamings.
(Article written by Bill Dries. Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Sons of Confederate Veterans Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp #1452, Herando, MS, September 2015. Vol 39, Issue 9)
Over the weekend, numerous rallies were held in support of the Confederate battle flag. One such rally took place in Hernando, Mississippi, on the grounds of the town’s historic courthouse. Hundreds were in attendance to show their support, and display their pride in their Southern history and heritage.
But that wasn’t all that happened last weekend. Vandals took it upon themselves to paint graffiti on the monument of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, Tennessee, by writing “Black Lives Matter” on the base. This desecration is completely unacceptable, as the monument is located directly above the graves of the general and his wife in what was previously known as Forrest Park.
In 1906, the first of several laws was passed, declaring that Confederate veterans are American veterans. That means that, by desecrating Civil War (specifically Confederate) headstones, monuments, etc., it is the same as vandalizing those from WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and other conflicts. To intentionally attack Confederate graves specifically is a rancid display of racism.
The media is certainly feeding fuel to the fire. In a recently published cartoon, the artist depicts all that is wrong with America today. But the problem is that the Confederate flag is front and center, drawing the most attention, with the word “racism” plastered beneath it. For those who aren’t learned in Civil War history, most would assume the flag represents this deplorable act. However, the flag isn’t behaving in a racist way. On the contrary, those who are painting “Black Lives Matter” on everything Confederate are the true bigots.
In a small, insignificant U.S.A. Today article yesterday, it was reported that, last Tuesday, Washington and Lee University announced that they will be removing all Confederate flags from campus. This decision came about after the school received pressure from a small group of law students who claim that the flags are discriminatory. They stated that they felt it was demeaning to have to pledge an honor code in the presence of the flags. The only place where the flags are prominently displayed is in the Lee Chapel, where General Robert E. Lee is interred.
On a personal note, I find this decision very disconcerting. If the school where General Lee successfully served as president for five years can all of a sudden change its policies after nearly 150 years, I have to wonder, what’s next? I feel it is inconceivably disrespectful of the man who gave his all to the school, who was torn between serving his country and defending his native state of Virginia, and who upheld the most stringent religious beliefs. What a slap in the face to all of us who have Confederate ancestors, because if this action is any indication, more dishonorable, similar acts will follow, such as the ongoing debate about Forrest Park in Memphis, Tennessee.
If Confederate flags are removed from a burial chamber, then what’s to follow? Taking away any sign of the Irish, the Germans, and the British? In that case, the American flag should be removed from all places that certain small, politically correct groups deem inappropriate. Need I remind you that our national flag flew while hoards of Native Americans were being slaughtered? Anyone who finds the Confederate flag offensive doesn’t know squat about history. The flag originated from the St. Andrews Cross, a religious, Scottish emblem. Just because certain hate groups (i.e. the KKK) took the flag and distorted its meaning and significance doesn’t mean that the basis of its meaning and symbolism is related to racism or slavery. It evolved into that after Reconstruction, and up through the Civil Rights Movement. It didn’t represent such ugly things during the Civil War, for which Lee and so many other brave Southern men fought.
I certainly hope Southern heritage groups such as the SCV will stand up against this abhorrent, blatant racism. It is just as offensive to abolish the Confederate flag from Washington and Lee University as it is, to some people, to fly it, because it is denying us the privilege to honor our war heroes, and thus, denying us our Constitutional rights to freely express ourselves. Sorry if you think the flag is offensive. Guess what? There are plenty of things far more offensive, and there are far bigger problems that this country faces right now. Maybe those law students should redirect their angst, be more constructive instead of destructive, and work toward solving these problems instead of attacking other people’s heritage.
Removing the flag is alarming, and I’m afraid to see what will be the next to go. I’m sure someone, somewhere, will find something wrong with everything. And then what will we be left with? Getting rid of things for political correctness isn’t the answer: love, compassion, and mutual understanding is. This means that all of us need to accept our history and heritage, comprehend the philosophical differences that we’ve held during various times in that history, and embrace them all as our own unique, American design. Erasing history is the first step in our own destruction. Hitler proved that.
A recent article concerning a marker at Forrest Park in Memphis, written by Wendi C. Thomas of the Commercial Appeal, was recently published. Ms. Thomas obviously has some issues about the subject. Whatever happened to impartial reporting? Apparently, Ms. Thomas never got that memo when she was taking journalism classes. Her slant on this story is nothing less than offensive, in my opinion. The facts she cites are also inaccurate. I’m amazed that so much time, money and attention has been spent on trying to rename parks for the sake of political correctness, when Memphis has far bigger problems to worry about. Memphis is still ranked second nationwide for the most violent city. It is ranked third by Xfinity as the most miserable city, and their website states that “violent crime in Memphis ranks second highest among U.S. cities. Corruption by city officials has also proven to be an issue.” Shouldn’t this be a priority instead?
Ms. Thomas’ story is as follows. I’ll let you be the judge, and then feel free to post your opinions of the article. (BTW Ms. Thomas, “those stunned and disgusted that this debate continues,” are offended that Memphis City Council has the audacity to try to eradicate history, and descendants of these men are also “stunned and disgusted.”)
Memphis to sell Forrest Park Marker If Confederate group won’t reclaim it
By Wendi C. Thomas, March 7, 2014, Commercial Appeal
Don’t be surprised if you see an ad like this soon: For sale: One “Forrest Park” 1,000-pound, 10-foot granite marker.
Perfect for Civil War buffs or fans of the Klan’s first grand wizard. The original owner, the Sons of Confederate Veterans paid $9,000. Interested? Call the City of Memphis.
The stone tribute to Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest has languished in a Midtown storage shed since January 2013, when Memphis officials plucked it from the park that once bore Forrest’s name. Unless the SCV, which placed the stone without final approval, claims it soon, it’s headed to a city auction block.
“Either you come get your stuff or we’ll consider it surplus,” said George Little, the city’s chief administrative officer.
It’s the latest chapter in the continuing Southern drama, pitting those who still revere the era in which African-Americans were property and those stunned and disgusted that this debate continues. Recent developments include the marker’s removal in January 2013; the Memphis City Council’s decision to rename of three Confederate-themed city parks last February, which freed these green spaces from names that reflected fondly on an era when 63 percent of Memphians would have been enslaved; a March 2013 rally Downtown by the KKK to protest said name changes, for which the city and county spent $175,585 on public safety; and a new state law rushed through by Republicans (the party of less government intervention and more local control) last April, that strips cities of the authority to rename any war-themed parks.
The next showdown will come by June when the city plans to vacate the storage building next to Overton Park where the marker sits.
“We are in the process of discussions to locate the Eggleston photo museum on that parcel of land, as part of a longer term arrangement with the Overton Park Conservancy.” Little said. The goal is “to get as much of that park back to the natural state as possible.”
“We don’t want any-thing to hap-pen to it,” he said, but “we’re not taking it with us … If someone wants it as a yard marker, they’ll be welcome to it.”
More than once, the city has asked the SCV to take the marker, but spokesman Lee Millar wants city officials to put it back where they found it.
“We did NOT refuse its return,” Millar said by email. “We stated where it should be returned to: namely, its rightful place in Forrest Park.”
There’s only one problem with Millar’s demand, and it’s a big one: “There isn’t a Forrest Park to put it back in,” Little said.
The park at Union and Manassas near Downtown still features an equestrian statue of the slave trader and Forrest’s remains. But it’s called Health Sciences Park, in a nod to its location next to the medical school and the city’s aspirations to be known as a biomedical center.
Little understands the SCV’s motivations. “If they took the marker back, it might affect their case.”
That’s right: This is still the land of the free and the home of the litigious: The SCV has sued the city for the “theft” of the marker and parks’ renaming. Perhaps a detente could come through the award-winning movie based on an 1853 slave memoir. “If anyone wonders why they might find that marker offensive, go see ’12 Years a Slave’ and then come talk about it,” Little said.