The Memphis City council took steps on Tuesday to begin the process of removing a monument to Confederate War General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the nation’s first Ku Klux Klan “grand wizard.”
In an unanimous vote, the council approved a resolution for the removal of Bedford’s remains from under a statue in his honor that currently sits in Health Sciences Park on Union Avenue.
The City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance calling for the removal of the statute at a later date. Council rules require the ordinance to be read three times before a vote can be held.
Before Bedford’s grave can be moved, a Tennessee court and the Forrest family must also give their approval. The next meeting of the Tennessee Historic Commission is scheduled for October.
Officials at Elmwood Cemetery where Bedford’s grave was originally located indicated that they would be willing to accept the remains. But cemetery officials have said that the statue is not welcome.
City Council member Myron Lowery pointed out that Tuesday’s vote would be just one step in a long process.
“It is no longer politically correct to glorify someone who was a slave trader, someone who was a racist on public property,” Lowery said. “It was clearly after what happened in South Carolina. It was clearly after what happened in the state capital of Tennessee.”
Lee Millar, a spokesperson for Sons of the Confederate Veterans, objected to efforts to remove the monument.
“I think it’s disgusting that people use the shooting in Charleston and use those victims to forward their own agenda and join this anti Confederate hysteria that’s going on,” Millar remarked to WREG. “To attack something like that now I feel is just really misguided.”
As a Civil War general, Bedford was known for ignoring the surrender of 200 or more Union soldiers and former slaves in the “Fort Pillow Massacre.” Following the war, Bedford was recognized as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in 1868.
Watch the video below from WREG, broadcast July 7, 2015.