Commission votes against moving N.B. Forrest statute

Meeting in Athens, the Tennessee Historical Commission on Friday denied the City of Memphis’ request to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park, reports the Commercial Appeal. The vote came after two hours of discussion.

City Attorney Bruce McMullen said he intends to file an appeal with the Chancery Court in Davidson County within the 60 days allotted by law.

Separately, the commission approved the city’s request to seek a declaratory order from an administrative law judge this November on whether the city even needs a waiver to remove the statue. State lawmakers didn’t add protections of historical figures to the language of the state’s preservation law until 2016, after the city filed the waiver. A previous version of the law protected “war memorials” but not statues like Forrest’s.

Further, from the Memphis Flyer:

Before the commission voted, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the commission he is speaking on behalf of a very united Memphis that wants the statue removed.

“But first we must understand and come to terms with why this statue exists in the first place,” Strickland said, citing that the statue was put in its current location 40 years after the Civil War, just as Jim Crow laws were becoming active. “It’s a monument to Jim Crow.”

Strickland concluded by adding that his administration has respected the legal process thus far and he asked that the commission would “respect the will of Memphis” and formally take up the waiver request.

However, Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesperson Lee Millar told the commission the picture that Strickland painted about Memphis’ consensus to remove the statue is not accurate. Thousands of Memphians say leave history alone, he said.

One of those Memphians is history teacher Elizabeth Adams, who told the commission that everyone is not in agreement with the mayor and city council.

“If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it,” Adams said. “Next they’ll want to remove the crosses from our churches.”

Steven Stout, an attorney with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, advised the commission not to vote on the waiver until after the new THC rule-making process is completed and becomes effective, which could take until February.

“It would be a poor decision to not vote until the rules are adopted,” Stout said.

He added it is “practically impossible” to take a vote and provide reasoning for the vote without referencing the rules. This could present legal challenges in the future. He says his counsel is aimed to make the commission “less vulnerable.”

But, after nearly two hours of hearing comments and discussion, commissioner Keith Norman of Memphis made a motion to vote on the waiver, which was seconded by Beverly Robertson, also of Memphis. Norman and Robertson are two of three African Americans on the commission.

One Response to Commission votes against moving N.B. Forrest statute

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *