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VOL. 133 | NO. 15 | Friday, January 19, 2018

Greenspace Nonprofit Details Offers For Confederate Monuments

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Greenspace president Van Turner detailed several offers to buy the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as Jefferson Davis in an open letter Thursday to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. (Daily News/File) 

The private nonprofit group that had the city’s two most visible Confederate monuments removed from city parks in December says it has had numerous offers to take the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis as well as a bust of Confederate Captain Harvey Mathes in the same park where the Davis statue stood.

Memphis Greenspace Inc. president Van Turner, in an open letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, writes that the great grandson of Mathes is interested in getting the bust and moving it to his home in Atlanta.

Turner, an attorney and Shelby County commissioner, says there have been inquiries about the Davis and Forrest statues from several Tennessee legislators and white separatist groups as well as several Civil War sites, the city of Savannah, Georgia, The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The letter also seeks the help of the governor’s office in “vetting and identifying an appropriate and permanent home for the statues.”

Haslam has not expressed an opinion about the removal of the statues last month just hours after a Memphis City Council vote to sell Health Sciences and Memphis Parks – including the monuments -- to Memphis Greenspace for $1,000 each. But Haslam had previously indicated he favors removing a bust of Forrest in the state capitol building, a proposal rejected by the State Capitol Commission.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has said Haslam was informed of the council decision and the removal of the statues. But Strickland has declined to say what Haslam’s reaction was.

Turner also writes that the gravesites of Forrest and his wife as well as other markers in Health Sciences Park were not disturbed in moving the equestrian statue of the Confederate general, slave trader and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Greenspace has every intention to continue to respect and maintain the gravesites,” Turner said in the letter.

The distinction between what is the Forrest monument and what is the gravesite could be part of a legal challenge of the council’s decision to sell the parks and the removal of the monuments.

The city’s position is that the statue and its base are not part of the gravesite.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans and Forrest descendants filed a petition earlier this month with the Tennessee Historical Commission accusing the city and Memphis Greenspace of violating state law by the removal of the monuments.

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