(CNN) – Crews have begun removing the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from Memphis Park, where a memorial to them once stood.
The decision to relocate their remains was made last year after Sons of Confederate Veterans, a non-profit organization of male descendants of Confederate veterans, agreed to drop the pending lawsuit against park owners. CNN Affiliate WREG.
The graves of Forrest, a slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan leader, and his wife, Mary Ann, are in the Health Science Park, where Forrest used to have a monument.
Removal of the remains began Tuesday morning and is being paid for by Sons of Confederate Veterans, Lee Miller, a spokesman for the group and Forrest’s fifth cousin, told CNN.
Miller said the dissolution is expected to take three weeks. Forrest and his wife will be re-planted on private land that will be publicly accessible in Columbia, Tennessee.
Years long battle over the remains
City leaders voted in 2013 to rename three parks honoring federal figures in Memphis. Then, in 2015, he voted to move the Forrest statue.
To proceed with the removal, he sought exemption from the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, a law that governs the removal, relocating, or renaming of monuments on public property. But the Tennessee Historical Commission denied the city’s request.
The refusal prompted the city council to pass legislation allowing it to sell the parkland to Memphis Greenspace, a nonprofit that provides the city with park-based recreation.
nonprofit took down Forrest’s Monument in December 2017, as well as a statue of Federal President Jefferson Davis.
According to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, the Forrest statue was placed between the passage of Jim Crow-era segregation laws in 1904 and the Davis statue in 1964 amid the civil rights fight. When the statues were removed, the mayor said they “no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum.”
Sons of Confederate Veterans fought the city’s efforts to remove the statues. The eviction encouraged the group to file a lawsuit against the City of Memphis and Memphis Greenspace, According to CNN affiliate WMC. group said It is believed that the removal violated state cemetery law and heritage protection law.
“This is a deliberate attempt to evade state law and the city is breaking the law,” with Miller of the Confederate Veterans, Told CNN affiliate WREG in December 2017.
In 2020, after years of dispute, both sides agreed to remove the remains, which would become the property of The Sons of Confederate Veterans. According to WREG, the group will also take possession of two Civil War-related statues and other objects already on public display in the park.
“We are pleased to say that the statues and bodies of the General and his wife will be placed somewhere where all American veterans and civilians will be honored and respected,” said group spokesman Donnie Kennedy. In a statement to CNN last year.
Both sides told WREG last year that they were happy they were able to reach this conclusion outside the courtroom.
“They don’t have to worry about further protests, possible vandalism of monuments,” said Van Turner, president of Memphis Greenspace and Shelby County Commissioner.
Turner also told WREG that under the new agreement, Memphis Greenspace would not take action to ban statues from Tennessee.
Turner said, “As an American, as a defender of the Constitution, it is his right to do so, freely express his views.” “It’s my right as an American not to support it, not to see it.”
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