Forrest Park marker was approved, Memphis veterans say

By Michael Lollar
Posted January 9, 2013

The spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the West Tennesseee Historical Commission said Wednesday the city’s chief administrative officer did not return three telephone calls asking that he return a $9,000 granite marker removed from the park after a complaint by Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey.

CAO George Little said Tuesday he had the 1,000-pound marker removed with a city-owned crane because he could find no formal approvals on file to install the marker. Lee Millar, past chairman of the historical commission, later produced a letter from the city’s former Memphis Park Services director authorizing the marker, which simply says "Forrest Park."

Millar said Wednesday he also found a Parks Services engineer’s report approving the design of the marker, which was installed in May and dedicated in July.

"We did everything we were told to do," said Millar, who said the city gave no notification or warning before hauling the marker away after a complaint by Bailey.

Little said he made his decision based simply on a lack of paperwork to authorize the marker. But Bailey said he had written to Little and to Mayor A C Wharton and "raised holy hell" about the marker. He said it was a further insult to citizens angered over the park’s centerpiece, a statue Civil War Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Millar said Bailey "always raises a fuss over the general. We should accept our history and know it, but focus on the future." He said Bailey "has a lot of other concerns he should be focusing on, like the tax rate, crime and things like that rather than raising a fuss over a sign in a public park."

He said the marker helps tourists easily locate the park when touring Civil War sites in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Tennessee Civil War Trails Program. There are 263 sites with markers in Tennessee, including Forrest Park.

Millar had asked that the granite marker be reinstalled in the park Wednesday. When it wasn’t, he said he is not sure yet of his next step. He said the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the historical commission have not taken legal action, but, "That’s always a possibility."

© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal

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