» Subscribe Today!
More of what you want to know.
The Daily News

Forgot your password?
TDN Services
Research millions of people and properties [+]
Monitor any person, property or company [+]

Skip Navigation LinksHome >
VOL. 132 | NO. 178 | Thursday, September 7, 2017

Memphis Moves Closer to Confederate Statue Removal

By Andy Meek

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()

The Memphis City Council has passed the first of three votes on a resolution that declares Confederate statues on city-owned property public nuisances and sets up a framework for the city to remove those statues even without approval from the state.

Removal of the controversial statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park and President Jefferson Davis from Memphis Park is set to proceed down dual tracks toward the same end goal.

That end goal, per the council resolution that’s set for the final of three required votes Oct. 3, is the council recommending a policy of “immediate removal” of the statues.

The dual track is as follows: the Tennessee Historical Commission is set to take action on the city’s request for a waiver that would allow it to remove the statues on Oct. 13. Meanwhile, the council resolution recommending the statues’ immediate removal – with or without state approval – is proceeding toward its final approval.

Protesters gathered in front of the statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in Health Sciences Park on Union Avenue during an August rally. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

The council resolution is set to become official no earlier than Oct. 13, to give the state commission, in the words of council attorney Allan Wade, “time to do the right thing.”

If not?

“This ordinance says unleash the dogs,” Wade told council members.

That’s a reference to the resolution’s text positioning any city effort to remove the statues in terms of preserving the constitutional rights of citizens. The resolution walks through some of the history of the civil rights era, why the statues were erected in the first place and the implications of their presence.

“There is no justification for those statues to be there,” Wade said, adding that they represent an “affront to every African-American citizen in Memphis.”

The city’s application now pending before the state historical commission seeks a waiver from the requirements of the 2013 Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, which bars the removal, relocating and disturbing of monuments and statues on public property that are connected in some way to wars that include the U.S. Civil War.

The council’s resolution notes that the Forrest and Davis statues were erected “partly with the intent of reasserting white supremacy in Memphis” and that “the city has had a dismal history of making all city parks accessible to its African-American citizens, which caused African-American citizens to sue the city in 1960 for complete desegregation of all city parks.”

The resolution goes on to cite a U.S. Supreme Court decision which held that denial “of the use of city facilities solely because of ... race is without warrant.”

That’s a justification, Wade said, for the city preparing to take action – as it’s now begun to do –with or without an okay from the state.

“A violation of someone’s constitutional rights takes precedence over state law,” Wade said.

Meanwhile, in other action at this week’s meeting the council approved a combined $21 million in funding for pre-construction work on the renovation of the Memphis Cook Convention Center and surplus Tourism Development Zone revenue for the Bicentennial Gateway project between the Pyramid and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The council heard more details but took no immediate action on the city administration’s ban on new sewer connections for areas outside the city limits that don’t have a pre-existing agreement with the city. Word from the city’s public works department that such connections would no longer be forthcoming sparked from complaints from developers, while some city officials see it as a necessary step to limiting suburban sprawl.

City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen told council members that the city supporting growth outside the city via services like this “is a bell that can’t be unrung.”

The council also approved an amendment to the mixed-use planned development at the Parkside at Shelby Farms, allowing for the addition of a hotel and condos to the first phase of the project. The council also allowed the first two of eight phases two move forward.

PROPERTY SALES 57 57 1,266
MORTGAGES 48 48 964