Tag Archives: Civil War

SCOTUS lets Confederate flag ban stand

The U.S. Supreme Court this week refused to consider the case of a former Anderson County High School student who insisted a ban on the display of the Confederate flag violated his constitutional right to free speech, reports the News Sentinel.

The high court’s decision not to accept the case leaves intact U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan’s 2009 ruling that the school system had the right to restrict students’ exercise of their free speech rights in the interests of school safety.

Anderson County student Tom Defoe filed suit against the school system after he was suspended in 2006 for twice violating the dress code — once when he donned a T-shirt bearing the Confederate flag and once when he wore a belt buckle displaying the same flag.

He insisted the flag was a symbol of his Southern heritage and that the ban violated his right to free speech.

Attorney Arthur F. Knight III and Jonathan Taylor countered that Anderson County’s high schools were teeming with racial strife between white students and black or Hispanic students, and the Confederate flag ban was designed to prevent racial violence.

House approves ‘heritage protection’ of Nathan Bedford Forrest bust and such

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee House has passed a bill that would make it more difficult to remove statues or rename streets dedicated to historical figures, including a state Capitol bust of a prominent Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader.

The chamber voted 71-23 on Thursday to approve the measure, titled the “Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.”

Calls to remove Confederate imagery from public places multiplied rapidly across the South after the slaying of nine black churchgoers last June in Charleston, South Carolina. A white man espousing racist views and who posed in a photo with a Confederate flag has been charged with murder in the killings.

The Tennessee bill would require a vote of two-thirds of the 29-member Tennessee Historical Commission to gain a waiver from a statewide ban on changing or removing historical markers. That’s an increase from the current law that requires only a majority vote. It would also prevent any changes for at least six months from the date of the petition.

Republican state Rep. Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads said his bill is aimed at avoiding “kneejerk reactions when certain events happen across this country.”
Continue reading

Court rules Sons of Confederate Veterans can pursue Forrest lawsuit

The state Court of Appeals has reversed a Shelby County judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the city stemming from City Council’s 2013 decision to change the names of three city parks including Health Sciences Park, which previously was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, reports the Commercial Appeal. A man was charged, meanwhile, with vandalizing a statute of Forrest.

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong had ruled that the groups involved in the suit did not have standing to challenge City Council’s resolution to change the parks’ names.

“On appeal, we hold that the allegations of the complaint are sufficient to establish standing as to one of the organizations, Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp #215. We therefore reverse the trial court‘s dismissal as to that organization,” Judge Brandon O. Gibson wrote.

(Note: The full decision is HERE.)

Meanwhile, overnight Thursday, a vandal struck the statue again, painting the words “Aw Go What” on both sides of the statue’s base Thursday night.

Leo Awgowhat, 43, was arrested Friday. He was charged with desecration of a venerated object and trespass or injury to a cemetery property, said Memphis police spokesman Louis Brownlee.

The incident occurred two days after the City Council voted to remove the politically charged monument to the Confederate officer from Health Sciences Park and 10 days after someone painted “Black Lives Matter’’ on the front of the statue’s base. Statue admirers had quickly scrubbed clean the monument after the earlier act of vandalism.

Memphis Council votes to remove Forrest statute from park

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis City Council has voted to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a public park.

Local news outlets report that council members voted 11-1 Tuesday to remove the statue of the rebel general, slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan member from Health Sciences Park.

Council member William Boyd cast the only “no” vote, while Edmund Ford Jr. was present but not voting.

The vote follows the council’s July 7 approval of a resolution to move the bodies of Forrest and his wife from the park back to their original Memphis burial plot.

Although the vote has concluded, officials say the statue’s future is uncertain. The city may need approval from the Tennessee Historical Commission, which next meets in October, to remove the statue

Alexander pushes to include more Civil War battlefields in National Park system

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5, – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today introduced legislation that would expand the boundary of Shiloh National Military Park to include three Civil War battlefields in Tennessee and Mississippi and designate Parker’s Crossroads as an affiliated area of the National Park System.

“As Americans, we have a special obligation to preserve and protect our heritage,” Alexander said. “Including these Civil War battlefields in the National Park System will honor that commitment, while providing an opportunity to attract more visitors to Tennessee and strengthen the local economies.”

The legislation would designate battlefields at Davis Bridge and Fallen Timbers in Tennessee and Russell House in Tennessee and Mississippi as part of Shiloh National Military Park.

The National Park Service has already determined that these battlefields are nationally significant and in need of preservation and protection, and the majority of the land included in this legislation is currently owned by the state of Tennessee or the Civil War Trust, which would speed the process of including these areas in the system

Savannah, TN, mayor seeks N.B. Forrest statute

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.
Continue reading

TDOT rejects request to block view of N.B Forrest statute

The state of Tennessee has denied the request of Nashville’s Metro Council to plant trees and vegetation to block the view of a controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest statue on Interstate 65, reports The Tennessean.

The Metro Council approved a resolution earlier this month that asks the Tennessee Department of Transportation “take the necessary action” to plant vegetation to block the view of the private owned statue” that stands along the interstate.

But TDOT commissioner John Schroer informed the council on Monday morning that it does not plant vegetation on its property for the sole purpose of blocking items on nearby private land.

Schoer’s response reads:

“TDOT does not plant foliage on its right-of-way with the sole intention of blocking items on private property based on what might be offensive to some and not to others. Therefore, the request of Metro Nashville’s Council to have TDOT plant vegetation on I-65 near the Harding Place Exit is respectfully denied.”

…At issue is a 25-foot fiberglass Forrest statue, designed by the late sculptor and attorney Jack Kershaw, erected on private land in 1998 near Crieve Hall. Kershaw was among a series of attorneys hired by James Earl Ray after being convicted of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Andy Holt: Nathan Bedford Forrest, a civil rights leader

Excerpt from an op-ed piece by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, appearing in the Jackson Sun:

The very idea of treating someone differently and not awarding them the same opportunities because of the color of their skin is absolutely disgusting. Were he alive today, Gen. Forrest would agree. In fact, Forrest was one of the South’s first civil rights leaders — a fact lost on many politicians looking to capitalize off the South Carolina tragedy.

Through Christ, we are called to believe in and celebrate redemption. When we recognize the life of Gen. Forrest, we are doing just that — celebrating the life of a man, redeemed through Christ, that fought for the rights of black West Tennesseans.

After the war, Gen. Forrest spoke with federal authorities controlling Memphis and the Memphis Board of Aldermen to plead with them to train young blacks so they would not be dependent on government. He argued that blacks were just as capable as whites to be doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc. The same Memphis city leaders wanting to exhume his grave today, ignored his calls for allowing blacks equal opportunities then. However, that didn’t stop Gen. Forrest from living his own life as an example. Forrest was CEO of Selma, Marion & Memphis Railroad. As CEO, Gen. Forrest hired and trained hundreds of former slaves. He even granted them leadership positions within the company.

…Those that wish to stoke the fires of racial tension in America claim that Gen. Forrest was the founder of the “KKK.” This is not true… In fact, recognizing his will to exercise “moral authority,” the United States Congress recognized Forrest’s efforts to dismantle the Klan in 1871.

In 1875, the Independent Order of Pole Bearers, an early civil rights organization in Memphis, invited Gen. Forrest to speak at their Fourth of July Barbecue. Ignoring the advice of many white friends urging him not to attend, Gen. Forrest accepted the invitation with an open heart. “Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand,” declared Gen. Forrest. After a speech that championed equality, unity and love, a large crowd of blacks roared with applause; a young black girl presented Gen. Forrest with a bouquet of flowers, for which he thanked her with kiss on the cheek.

Those interested in actually mending racial tension in Tennessee, rather than pandering for quick political points, should be singing the praises of Gen. Forrest. We should be teaching the story of Nathan B. Forrest to every last school child, not digging up his grave in an attempt to rewrite history.

Commission delays decision on relocating Forrest bust

The State Capitol Commission on Friday deferred action until at least to this fall on requests to move a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest out of the State Capitol, reports Richard Locker.

The commission voted 9-0 to create a new five-member subcommittee “to develop a process for evaluating the characteristics of Tennesseans who should be honored in the Capitol complex” — the building and its grounds — and set an Oct. 1 deadline for the subcommittee to make its recommendations to the full commission.

Moments earlier, the commission voted to dismiss a two-part complaint filed by Elizabeth Coker of Rutherford County, a Civil War history enthusiast who wants to keep the Forrest bust in the capitol.

Her complaint, emailed to commission members, suggested that state officials haven’t determined who owns the bust and have not consulted with groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy who she said raised money for the bust in the 1970s when it was created and placed in the Capitol. She also complained that some commission members have an “ethical conflict of interest” that she said in the email she would not elaborate on publicly and should recuse themselves from acting on the issue.

…The meeting occurred in a small, packed hearing room in the Legislative Plaza state office complex, attended by fewer than a dozen supporters of keeping the bust in the Capitol. After the vote, Coker, some military veterans and Sons of Confederate Veterans members and state Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) argued, at times loudly, in the hallway outside the meeting room. When Hardaway told the group that Confederacy was “treasonous” and Forrest was “a traitor to the United States.” Coker said, “No! No! Wrong! … We had the legal right to secede, sir. Tennessee voted twice on it. The people voted.”

…On June 24, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey sent a joint letter to the Capitol Commission encouraging the panel “to begin the process of evaluating the characteristics of Tennesseans who should be honored in the Capitol Complex.”

That letter was cited as the basis of Friday’s motion by state Finance Commissioner Larry Martin, the Capitol Commission’s chairman, that was ultimately approved by the full commission. Martin appointed to the subcommittee that will study the issue and return with recommendations State Treasurer David Lillard, Fisk University history professor Reavis L. Mitchell Jr., state Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), state General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby and state Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. Mitchell is also chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

House Democratic chair bill would repeal N.B. Forrest Day

On Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart announced he will file legislation to abolish Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee next year.

July 13 was the Confederate general’s birthday and, under a statute enacted in 1971 the governor has duty to issue a proclamation designating that date annually as a “day of special observance.” Gov. Bill Haslam did so this year.

From the News Sentinel report:

“I can’t think of anything more appropriate than using today as the beginning of the end of Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. We do not need a special day to remember that Forrest commanded the forces who massacred soldiers at Fort Pillow after they had surrendered and laid down their arms,” Stewart said.

“In a state that has produced many genuine military heroes we should not be elevating that sort of service.”

Two other legislators, state Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) and Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville), have pre-filed a bill to prohibit the issuance or renewal of the Sons of Confederate Veterans special licenses plates bearing images of the Confederate flag.

Note: The license plate repeal bill is HB1404. The legislature’s website indicates Stewart hasn’t yet pre-filed his Forrest Day bill.