City's fight to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest monument won't be easy

City's fight to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest monument won't be easy
Published: Jul. 9, 2015 at 7:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2015 at 11:17 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Many Mid-Southerners wonder whether officials can legally remove the statue of a Confederate general from a City of Memphis park.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wants the monument and gravesite of Nathan Bedford Forrest removed from the public property. But, Forrest's family will fight it to the end.

The city will need to jump through many hoops to make the removal happen, from a state commission to the courts.

People showed up to Health Sciences Park, formerly named Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, to see the controversial effigy after glimpsing it on the news.

"I just think we've grown a lot and I'm not necessarily sure that removing this is going to do anything," Kelly Stevenson, who is visiting from Florida, said.

"Why would they take it away? The kids coming up today need to know," suggested Memphis resident Connie Askew.

Mayor A C Wharton said Forrest's legal will called for him and his wife to be buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

"Moving that statue does nothing to distort history. It's not as if a battle occurred in that park," Mayor Wharton explained.

But, many people are asking whether moving the statue off of public park property is legal.

The Heritage Protection Act prevents the relocation of military monuments like Forrest's statue.

"Thanks to a law that was passed a couple of years ago in Nashville in response to Memphis renaming some of these parks, now the city would have to pass a resolution, but they'd also have to go before the Tennessee Historical Commission and get permission to move the statue," said Steve Mulroy, who is a constitutional attorney and University of Memphis Law School Associate Dean.

So far, no one from Memphis asked for the commission to hear the issue.

Mulroy said moving the graves would take additional effort.

"They'd either need permission of the family, which I understand is not likely, or you need to go into Chancery Court and get a court order," he explained.

"Our attorney is navigating through that," Wharton responded. "This is going to be very orderly."

In the meantime, Memphis City Council is moving forward with the ordinance to remove the grave, which will need three readings. It could be approved by the end of August.

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