Civil War

Legal actions launched against removal of Confederate statutes in Memphis

The Sons of Confederate Veterans and descendants of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest have filed two legal actions against the City of Memphis over removal of Confederate statutes from two former city parks last month, reports the Commercial Appeal.

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Memphis Confederate statute removal peacefully protested

Lots of law enforcement officers were on hand for an organized protest against a Memphis City Council move that led to removing statutes of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and Confederate cavalry General Nathan Bedford Forrest, reports the Commercial Appeal. But they didn’t have much to do except watch the peaceful proceedings.

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Confederate statute removal brings Democratic cheers, Republican jeers

House Republican leaders Thursday criticized the sale of two Memphis city parks to clear the way for removal of Confederate statues, suggesting there may be legislative efforts against the move. House Democrats, on the other hand, praised the Memphis maneuver.

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Memphis sells city parks, buyer removes Confederate statues

A private group headed by a county commissioner and fueled by anonymous donations bought two parks from the city of Memphis at little cost this week in a maneuver that cleared the way for swift removal of two Confederate statutes that have sparked conflict for years, reports the Associated Press.

Shelby County Commissioner and attorney Van Turner told a news conference Thursday that his group, Memphis Greenspace Inc., is ready for any lawsuits that arise from its deal with the city, which took months of planning to sidestep a Tennessee law that makes it tough to take down Confederate monuments on public grounds.

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Bill would move N.B. Forrest bust to state museum

Rep. Brenda Gilmore, former chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, has filed a bill that would move a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol lobby to the new Tennessee State Museum.

Under current state law, the Capitol Commission must approve any such move – and the panel voted 7-5 in September to leave the Forrest bust in place. HB1466 specifically makes the Forrest bust an exception to that general rule and further directs that it be relocated to the new museum, now under construction.

There’s no listed Senate sponsor yet for the bill, pre-filed for consideration in the legislative session that begins next month.

Note: Previous post on the commission vote is HERE; a post with a bit of bust history HERE.

Marsha Blackburn, a ‘neo-Confederate secessionist’ and a 2004 prayer in the U.S. House

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn once brought an avowed neo-Confederate secessionist she’d known for decades to deliver the opening prayer for the House of Representatives, according to Talking Points Memo.

Blackburn, who is currently running for the Senate, invited the Rev. David O. Jones, a Tennessee pastor and Christian home-school program head who says he’s known her since the late 1970s, to give the opening prayer for the House in 2004.

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Court of Appeals upholds removal of Confederate names from Memphis parks

The state Court of Appeals in Jackson, affirming a February ruling by the Shelby County Chancery Court, has ruled that the City of Memphis had the legal authority to rename despite contentions to the contrary from the Sons of Confederate veterans, reports the Commercial Appeal.

In 2013, the city parks changed the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park, renamed Confederate Park as Memphis Park and declared the former Jefferson Davis Park to be known as Mississippi River Park.

Lee Millar, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp No. 215, said the group is a digesting the 18-page ruling it received Wednesday and has yet to decide whether to appeal the court’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

“They’ve been known for their history and historic naming for decades and decades,” Millar said of the parks. “They shouldn’t be frivolously renamed. They’re part of our history — Memphis’ history as well as America’s history.”

Wednesday’s ruling doesn’t affect the city’s legal efforts to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest or the graves of he and his wife from Health Sciences Park. The city still plans to argue for the statue’s removal in Davidson County Chancery Court in November following the state Historical Commission’s Oct. 13 rejection of a waiver.

Note: The full Court of Appeals decision is HERE.

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.

Update on TN civil war over Confederate statutes

In Chattanooga Sunday, a protest march was staged to urge removal of Confederate Gen. Alexander P. Stewart’s bust from the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn with a smaller group of counter-protesters on hand, reports the Times Free Press.

In Knoxville, meanwhile, former mayor Victor Ashe revisits the State Capitol Commission’s vote against Gov. Bill Haslam’s request to move a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the lobby between the state House and Senate chambers.

And the Tennessee Historical Commission has postponed its vote on relocating a Forrest statute in Memphis. Originally scheduled for Oct. 13, it now won’t come until February of next year at the earliest, reports the Memphis Flyer.

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With N.B. Forrest staying at TN capitol, should W.G. ‘Parson’ Brownlow return?

At least three Democratic state legislators tell the Nashville Scene they’d like to see a portrait of Republican Gov. William G. “Parson” Brownlow returned to the state Capitol building, reversing a 1987 decision – when Democrats controlled the General Assembly – that sent the controversial Reconstruction governor’s likeness to the state museum. But the idea doesn’t seem to have much support from Republicans, now the state’s majority party.

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