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VOL. 130 | NO. 131 | Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Council Approves Forrest Move

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members approved unanimously Tuesday, July 7, a resolution that begins the process of moving the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as the graves of Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann, in the base of the monument.

The proposal by council chairman Myron Lowery includes an ordinance that is before the council later this month for the first of three readings that speaks to the move of the statue out of the park named in Forrest's honor until a name change two years ago.

Elmwood Cemetery said it can reinter the remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann, but the equestrian statue of Forrest above their current graves “will require special attention that Elmwood Cemetery cannot provide.”

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Council attorney Allan Wade, who drafted the resolution and ordinance, said earlier in the council day that the resolution would allow the administration of Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to begin working out the procedural questions on the moves.

Those moves are certain to include a Chancery Court hearing on the move to disinter the remains of Forrest and his wife. They will also include the disposition of the statue.

Lowery and Wharton called for the move of the 1905 monument and burial places in the wake of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. in June that killed nine worshipers. The accused gunman expressed allegiance to the Confederate cause and his Facebook page included numerous pictures of him posing with the Confederate flag.

Forrest was a Confederate Gerneral as well as a slave trader and Grand Wizerd of the Ku Klux Klan.

Some opponents of the Forrest resolution again denied Tuesday that Forrest was ever a member of the Klan even though other Klan founders who were Forrest's contemporaries said Forrest sought to join the Klan and became the first Grand Wizard.

Meanwhile, Elmwood Cemetery is offering to reinter the remains where they were originally buried before the 1905 monument was built.

But cemetery executive director Kim McCollum told Lowery in a Tuesday email that the equestrian statue of Forrest above their current graves “will require special attention that Elmwood Cemetery cannot provide.”

In the run-up to Tuesday’s first council vote on the issue, Lowery had been talking with McCollum about returning the Forrests’ remains to Elmwood Cemetery.

McCollum said in the email the cemetery’s board of trustees and staff are offering to provide the burials free of charge “in a gesture of good will to the people of Memphis.”

“Their grave spaces were never re-used on their family lot at Elmwood Cemetery. The couple can be reinterred in their original spaces,” McCollum’s email reads. “Elmwood Cemetery will assist the city with the removal and relocation of the caskets, should the time come.”

The monument of Forrest on horseback is another matter, however, because of its size and design.

“Elmwood Cemetery recommends that the statue be removed to a private collection, a museum or a state or federally funded park or museum where proper care can be fully given,” McCollum wrote.

The council resolution approved Tuesday and the council ordinance to come each give the city administration the power to "sell, transfer, assign and convey" the city's rights to the statue.

The current chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans claims it is the successor to the monument association that had the monument built more than 100 years ago.

But Wade disputed that claim to the statue.

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