SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) — The mayor of a Tennessee town says he’s willing to take a statue of Confederate Gen. and early Ku Klux Klan member Nathan Bedford Forrest if Memphis doesn’t want it.
Savannah Mayor Bob Shutt recently wrote to Memphis’ mayor to request the statue, saying his town would accept the payments for the move, The Jackson Sun (http://bit.ly/1IfKXoz) reported.
The Memphis City Council has an upcoming vote on whether to remove the statue from a city park.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton told the newspaper that his city will handle the situation “legally, ethically and with dignity and respect.”
Wharton said in a statement that it’s premature to respond to any offers, saying a lengthy process has to take place before the statue could be removed from the public space.
“We appreciate and will consider all offers from those who recognize the value of this asset and are interested in taking possession of it,” Wharton said.
Shutt said his offer to accept the statue comes from the need for more economic development for his town.
Savannah is near Shiloh National Military Park, and Forrest was born in Middle Tennessee.
“We’re a small, rural community and we don’t have a lot of opportunities for economic development,” Shutt said. “Five hundred thousand (people) go to Shiloh every year, and if we can get some to get into Savannah to look at a statue . it’s economics to us.”
Savannah City Commissioner Kent Collier said the statue would fit perfectly in Savannah.
“Heritage tourism is the lifeblood of Savannah; it’s our number one economic development,” Collier said.
“We already have hundreds of Confederate and federal monuments,” he said. “It fits here. It’s not controversial, it’s history. We welcome it.”
Collier said the Forrest statue would be placed adjacent to a statue of Union Ge. Ulysses S. Grant within the Savannah city limits. Both men fought in the battle of Shiloh.
Shutt said he knows not every Savannah resident would be happy with using tax dollars to bring in a controversial statue, but he said he would do it for the betterment of the community.