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VOL. 130 | NO. 134 | Monday, July 13, 2015

Forrest Birthday Observance Draws Large Crowd

By Bill Dries

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Confederate groups’ observance of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s birthday Sunday, July 12, drew a larger-than-usual crowd of several hundred people to the city park once named in honor of the Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

The observance by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and an abundance of Confederate flags came less than a week after the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to start the process of moving the 1905 monument to Forrest from what is now Health Sciences Park and disinter the bodies of Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann, for burial in Elmwood Cemetery.

The annual observance Sunday, July 12, of Nathan Bedford Forrest's birthday drew a larger-than-usual turnout in Health Sciences Park.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

Among the city’s next moves will be a Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit, which is required for any disinterment

The proposal by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and council chairman Myron Lowery is part of a national reaction to Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag following the massacre of nine worshipers at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. The alleged shooter’s Facebook page included numerous photos of him with a Confederate flag and a racist manifesto that included references to the Confederacy.

This past Friday, the Confederate battle flag flying on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol in Columbia was removed by state officials there.

The national response is also the basis for a counter-reaction that has been a frequent companion of calls in Memphis over the past 30 years to rename the park and remove the statue.

The counter-reaction at Health Sciences Park Sunday, the day before Forrest’s birthdate, included several motorcycle clubs, many wearing colors that included the Confederate symbol. Most of the bikers wore colors of the First Battalion Mechanized Cavalry, a Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

A few other bikers wore the Family motorcycle gang’s colors, which include a swastika.

The First Battalion group made several motorcycle runs around the statue after uniformed Confederate re-enactors fired ceremonial volleys from guns firing blanks.

Eight to 10 Memphis police cars were stationed in and around the park during the observance.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has called for the removal of a bust of Forrest from the state Capitol building in Nashville. But he has repeatedly said the call to remove the Memphis Forrest monument and disinter the remains is a local issue .

The Tennessee Historical Commission is to discuss the general issue Friday, July 17, in Nashville. The commission’s consent is required to remove the statue in Memphis and the bust in Nashville under a state law enacted in 2013.

Before the Legislature enacted the law, the Memphis City Council voted to change the name of Forrest Park as well as two other Confederate-themed city parks.

Last month, as the anniversary of Forrest’s birth in 1821 neared, Haslam signed a proclamation that touts Forrest as “a recognized military figure in American history and a native Tennessean.”

Haslam’s office pointed out that the governor’s proclamation of the event is required by Tennessee law – specifically reading that it is “the duty of the governor of this state.”

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