The sound of cannon fire boomed across Health Sciences Park in Memphis on Sunday as more than 200 people came out to celebrate the 192nd birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, reports The Commercial Appeal
This year’s event marked the first at the Medical Center site since the Memphis City Council changed the name of that park and two others with Confederate themes, but speakers throughout the day proudly maintained that they were celebrating in Forrest Park.
Forrest, described as “a military genius,” enlisted as a private in the Confederate army in 1861 and became a lieutenant general by the end of the Civil War. He also continues to be a figure despised by many because of his early leadership role in the Ku Klux Klan.
The celebration was sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the General Nathan Bedford Forrest Historical Society.
In February, the City Council changed the names of Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park and Forrest Park to Memphis Park, Mississippi River Park and Health Sciences Park, respectively.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Several plaintiffs have filed suit against the renaming of Confederate-themed city parks in Memphis, asserting only the mayor can change park names.
According to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/18AUpUg ), nine individuals and a group calling itself Citizens to Save Our Parks filed the petition Wednesday against the city and members of the Memphis City Council.
On Feb. 5, the council approved a resolution renaming Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park.
They were given generic names, awaiting a committee recommendation. That panel has recommended Civil War Park, Promenade Park and Harbor Park. The council has not acted on the recommendation.
The lawsuit asks Chancery Court to void the renaming of the parks.
City Attorney Herman Morris said Wednesday he had not yet seen the lawsuit.
The state legislator sponsoring the bill that would ban renaming of historical parks and monuments across Tennessee tells the Commercial Appeal that he’s disappointed that the Memphis City Council hurriedly renamed three Confederate-themed parks, but he won’t try to force a reversal. But another lawmaker said word of the council’s action in heading off McDaniel’s bill spread rapidly through the state legislature and could help the Shelby County suburbs’ efforts to establish their own school systems.
Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, said his bill isn’t aimed specifically at Memphis’ off-and-on disputes over Forrest Park and its statue of Confederate war hero Nathan Bedford Forrest, but was something he’s been thinking about for several years without pursuing. And because the City Council has already re-named the parks, he said he won’t try to make the state bill — which he said will probably take five to six weeks to pass — apply retroactively.
“I’m absolutely disappointed (in the council’s action). I don’t think that just because you disagree or don’t approve of the historical past that we should be changing the names of these parks or think about removing monuments. We’ve got monuments on the Capitol grounds that I wouldn’t have approved of putting there, but they are there and they are part of our history.
His “Tennessee Heritage Preservation Act” (House Bill 553) provides in part that “No statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, plaque, historic flag display, school, street, bridge, building, park, preserve, or reserve which has been erected for … any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization, or military unit, and is located on public property, may be renamed or rededicated.”
If the bill were already law, it would have blocked the City Council’s action Tuesday renaming Forrest Park as Health Sciences Park, Confederate Park as Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park as Mississippi River Park. Council members cited the pending state bill as their reason for moving swiftly to change the parks’ names.
…One suburban Shelby County state representative, who would not speak about the subject on the record, said the Council’s move may have unintended consequences, including helping suburban lawmakers win approval of another bill now in the works to allow new municipal school districts.
Suburban leaders have decided that court-ordered negotiations over new school systems in Shelby County have all but ground to a halt, and their best bet is state legislation that lifts a 15-year-old ban on new municipal school districts statewide. Such a bill is likely to have better chances of passing now than in the last two years, when legislators from elsewhere wanted to limit new districts to Shelby County — which a federal judge ruled is unconstitutional.
By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The statue of Confederate fighter Nathan Bedford Forrest astride a horse towers above the Memphis park bearing his name. It’s a larger-than-life tribute to the warrior still admired by many for fiercely defending the South in the Civil War — and scorned by others for a slave-trading past and ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
Though the bloodiest war on American soil was fought 150 years ago, racially tinged discord flared before its City Council voted this week to strip Forrest’s name from the downtown park and call it Health Sciences Park. It also voted to rename Confederate Park as Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park as Mississippi River Park.
A committee has been formed to help the council decide on permanent names for the parks.
The changes have drawn praise from those who said bygone reminders of the Confederacy had to be swept away in what today is a racially diverse city. Critics cried foul, saying moves to blot out such associations were tantamount to rewriting the history of a Mississippi River city steeped in Old South heritage.
The struggle over Forrest’s legacy and moves to rename other parks highlights a broader national debate over what Confederate figures represent in the 21st century as a far more diverse nation takes new stock of the war on its 150th anniversary with the hindsight of the civil rights era.
Speculation is already afoot about potential challengers to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in 2014, though all are saying, more or less, that it’s too early to talk about it.
The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal has quotes from state Sen. Jim Tracy, Lou Ann Zelenik and state Rep. Joe Carr about the possibility of entering the Republican primary… and speculation about another Democratic run at the seat. “We are less than 18 months away from primary season, so it will be here before you know it,” said Gabriel Fancher, chairman of the Rutherford County Young Republicans and an executive committee member of the county’s GOP. “The thing about DesJarlais is you can’t knock him on his voting record, but he does have that past that haunts him. People hold their representative to a hire standard. As long as they do, his past will continue to haunt him.”
The Tennessean adds the name of Forrest Shoaf, a lawyer and retired business executive who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to the 7th Congressional District seat back in 2002 (losing to Marsha Blackburn). “We’ve worked a long time to win this (4th Congressional District) seat and I don’t want to lose it,” said retired Cracker Barrel executive Forrest Shoaf of Lebanon.
“I’m giving strong thought to running in the (2014) primary.”
If not Shoaf, it will be someone, several Washington political observers said. And none saw the Jasper Republican, just re-elected to a second term, making it to a third.
“It’s a fairly safe prediction that the congressman’s tenure will end in the GOP primary in 2014. His affairs could fill a whole season of a soap opera, and that’s not acceptable for the ‘family values’ party in the Bible Belt,” said University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato.
News release from the lieutenant governor’s office:
(September 6, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced the appointment of attorney Forrest Shoaf to the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Gray-uniformed soldier re-enactors fired long-barreled muskets in salute and United Daughters of the Confederacy in ankle-length dresses set wreaths before the towering statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, paying tribute to a Confederate cavalryman whose exploits still divide Americans today.
The annual tribute Sunday to the hard-driving Confederate lieutenant general coincided this year with the 190th anniversary of his July 13 birth and the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, where he achieved his greatest success — and lasting notoriety.
The celebration in downtown Memphis at Forrest’s burial site signaled that the cult of personality remains alive among the admirers of Forrest, a slave trader and cotton farmer whose deeds during and after the war still prompt division against those detractors who have deemed him a virulent racist.
“He’s a polarizing figure,” said Ed Frank, a University of Memphis historian whose great-grandfather served under Forrest. “He was a man of considerable accomplishment, but also a very rough and a very hard person.”
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Does Haley Barbour have a Confederate problem?
It’s a question hounding Mississippi’s Republican governor as he gears up for a possible 2012 presidential run. Barbour refused this week to condemn a proposed state license plate to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was also an early Ku Klux Klan leader.
Barbour wouldn’t say what he thinks about Forrest, a Tennessee native who’s venerated by some as a brilliant military strategist and reviled by others for leading the 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn.
“Look,” Barbour told The Associated Press, “if you want a lesson on Nathan Bedford Forrest, buy a book.”