Grave Situation

Published Jul 13, 2015

NEWS:   The Memphis City Council has voted to move the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park in Memphis.

confederate general

On 7 July 2015, the Memphis City Council, responding to growing public sentiment, unanimously agreed to move the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park in downtown Memphis.

Bedford was originally interred at Elmwood Cemetery, but his remains were moved Forrest Park (renamed Health Sciences Park in 2013 as part of an effort to remove the names of Confederate figures from public parks) in 1905 to coincide with the installation of a statue of him there:

Gen. Forrest is a popular yet highly controversial figure. After the Civil War, he served as the first leader or “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan when it formed in 1866.

State officials across the country have been calling for the eradication of Confederate symbols, icons, and monuments from key sites in recent weeks. Yet if the council’s plan goes through, it would be the first attempt to disinter the corpse of a Confederate leader as a symbolic gesture to denounce Dixie’s white-supremacist history.

Memphis City Council members are now also working to remove Forrest’s statue from the park.

While the statue of the Confederate general in Health Sciences Park is still standing, [City Council chairman Myron] Lowery is hopeful that will change soon. After Tennessee saw a bipartisan call to remove a bust of Forrest from its Senate chamber alcove, he says, “We feel that we have support from the state."

Although the Memphis City Council has voted to move the Confederate general's remains (as well as his statue), the measure still has to be approved by the Tennessee Historical Commission. If it is, Forrest will return to his former resting place at Elmwood (the oldest active cemetery in Memphis).

Lowery said that he is confident that the Historical Commission will approve the measure:

“What we’ve done here in Memphis is no different from what’s happening across the country. I think it’s time to remove symbols of racism and bigotry... We feel that we have support from the state."

Sons of Confederate Veterans member Lee Millar spoke for those who oppose the proposal and view it as an attempt to erase Confederate history:

"The Forrest family is solidly opposed to digging up the graves and moving them any place. The statue just as well. They're opposed to moving the statue too... This appears to me to be another knee jerk reaction to that anti-Confederate hysteria. Some people here are trying to get on the bandwagon in erasing Confederate history and its just wrong."

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.