Judge rules city’s sale of Confederate parks was legal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The city's removal of Confederate statues in Memphis last year was legal, a Davidson County judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling in the suit filed by Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp against the City of Memphis and nonprofit Memphis Greenspace, was was filed at 4 p.m.

"This ruling reaffirms what we've said from the start: Everything was handled in a lawful manner," Mayor Jim Strickland said in a release.

► Read the judge's ruling here.

The city's decision to transfer ownership to a private entity, Memphis Greenspace, appears to be key to the judge's decision. The SCV had challenged the city's right to sell to the nonprofit.

"The Statues here are not public property. By virtue of the December 2017 sale and the limitations at that time of the 2016 Act which did not prohibit sales, the Statues are private property beyond the control of this Court," the ruling states.

The SCV may file a motion for an appeal.

Wednesday's ruling appears to make the future of the Memphis parks  more clear, after the city sold them to a nonprofit and that group took down two Confederate statues in December 2017.

Recently, there have been complaints about upkeep, specifically at Health Sciences Park in the Medical District.

People we spoke with complained about the park looking abandoned.

"I just sit here and have my lunch," Fred Murrey, who works nearby said. "They need to do a little more work on it."

"It definitely needs some work,” said Isabella Bridges, who visited a UTHSC dental clinic Wednesday.

Greenspace President Van Turner said the group bought it from the city in December 2017 and immediately took down the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.

But now they're having trouble paying the bills for landscaping.

WREG also uncovered they owed the city about $144 and county about $175 in taxes.

“We’ll get that handled. Eventually, because we're a nonprofit we should be exempt going forward but there’s probably liability left there from the transfer," Turner said.

What’s more, the Sons of Confederate Veterans was challenging the sale in court.

Turner says the lawsuit had been holding them back, at least until Wednesday's decision.

"We are very excited about Chancellor Lyles’ ruling.  Hopefully, we will be able to obtain closure on this issue and move forward with the wonderful programming and planned activities for the parks” said Turner.

As for the statues themselves, the ruling notes that Greenspace continues to store and maintain them and is looking to transfer them somewhere where they can be preserved and displayed — but not in Memphis.

"Parker’s Crossroads, the site of General Forrest’s legendary instruction, when encircled by the Union, to charge in both directions, is a likely location," the ruling states.