Black Memphis Mayor Wants To Dig Up Nathan Forrest’s Grave

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

In what some are calling a war on Southern heritage, the African-American mayor of Memphis, Tennessee has announced plans to inter the remains of KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife and remove them from a local public park.

Riding the anti-Confederacy zeitgeist sparked by the mass shooting of African-Americans by a White man in a South Carolina church two weeks ago, Mayor Wharton Mayor A.C. Wharton’s proposal calls not only for the remains of Gen. Forrest and his wife to be interred from and moved to Elmwood Cemetery, it calls for the dismantling of the towering monument of the Klan founder and Confederate general.

“Thanks to the kind of social media we have now, it’s clear by his own words that what happened in Charleston is related to the presence of the flag,” Mayor Wharton said.

Saying that he “despises and disavows everything the Confederacy stood for,” Mayor Wharton said he would send the proposal to the city council for a vote. Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery, an African-American, said he is already in discussion with Council Attorney Allan Wade to draw up an ordinance to move the proposal along.

Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton

Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton

Calling the monument a “symbol of bigotry, a symbol of hate,” Lowery said “I’m not trying to change history, history is what it is, but in 2015, this day and age is much different that it was 100 years ago.”

Memphis city officials have been waging a fierce and unrelenting war on Southern heritage for several years. In 2013, the city council changed the name of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park. They also changed the names of Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park.

Councilman Harold Collins noted that the Parks Committee discussed the same idea three years ago when city leaders changed the names of several parks.

Both Collins and Councilman Jim Strickland are running for Memphis Mayor against Wharton, but
support the latest effort in a debate that has spanned the years.

The Nathan Bedford Forrest monument

The Nathan Bedford Forrest monument

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, who are part of a group appealing the name changes, say that Mayor Wharton’s proposal would not be easy after state lawmakers in 2013 passed the Tennessee Heritage Preservation Act.

“All military statues, monuments, memorials, cemeteries, battlefields, are protected under state law because it’s part of Tennessee and American history,” SoC spokesman Lee Millar said.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s grave has been at its current location since 1904.

“General Forrest was a revered member of society in Memphis,” Millar explained. “Very well respected, and a military leader who is still studied worldwide in military academies today.”

Millar also disputed Gen. Forrest’s role in the KKK, or even a member of the group, and denounced the mass shooting of two weeks ago.

UPDATE (7/7/2015): The all-Black Memphis City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to move the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park, which have been buried on Union Avenue location for 110 years.

Council members are also moving ahead with plans to remove the statue of Forrest, and put it up for public auction.

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