Council Changes Names of 3 Civil War Parks

By Bill Dries

Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate and Jefferson Davis Parks are no more.

Memphis City Council member voted Tuesday, Feb. 5, to give the three Civil War themed parks new temporary names.

The resolution which was written to take effect immediately renames Forrest Park as Health Sciences Park, Confederate Park as Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park as Mississippi River Park.

The council action was fueled by word of a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would forbid the renaming of military or war memorial parks and the removal of statues and markers from any of those parks.

The “Tennessee Heritage Preservation Act of 2013” is sponsored by Tenn. Rep. Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads and Tenn. Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro.

The legislation fueled council sentiment to pass the resolution and move ahead with the first of three readings of two ordinances to permanently rename Forrest Park to include the name of Ida B. Wells and to rename Forrest and the two other parks with names still be determined.

The council also approved a resolution Tuesday setting up a six-member committee to study the issue of what to call the parks. The committee includes two council members, the city parks and neighborhoods division director, two professional historians and a representative of the NAACP.

Council member Shea Flinn said his vote for all of the measures was prompted by “the ironic war of aggression from our northern neighbors in Nashville.”

In other action, the council approved on the first of three readings the ordinance setting up a referendum on a citywide half cent sales tax hike to be held “by Sept. 30, 2013.”

The council delayed action on a resolution that would establish revenue from the tax hike, estimated at $47 million, would be used to fund pre kindergarten programs and to roll back the city’s property tax rate by 20 cents in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The delay was to vote on the resolution at the same March council meeting when the referendum ordinance is up for third and final reading.

Council member Myron Lowery withdrew his pending “wage theft” ordinance before a vote on third and final reading. Lowery said he pulled the proposal because a version of it failed before the Shelby County Commission previously. Lowery added that he might also bring the proposal back to the council. If he does it would start again at the first of three readings.