Appeals court says group can challenge Confederate park name changes

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It turns out the Sons of Confederate Veterans does have the right to challenge the renaming of three Memphis parks that carried Confederate names and themes.

That’s the decision by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, which based its decision on a park sign and how the city went about changing the names.

The Memphis City Council voted on Feb. 5, 2013, to strip three city parks with Confederate themes of their names.

Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park are now the Health Sciences Park, Memphis Park and Mississippi River Park, respectively.

The following May, a group called Save Our Parks filed a complaint seeking to change the names back.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong dismissed the complaint, saying none of those involved had standing for the complaint. The Tennessee Court of Appeals has reversed that decision, with a change.

The only plaintiff who can claim it was injured by the park name change is Camp #215 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest.

In his decision, Judge Brandon Gibson said the SCV suffered an injury from the City Council because the council renamed the parks via a resolution, rather than an ordinance, meaning there was no opportunity for public input.

A 3,000-pound marker bearing the Forrest name is another part of the reason for the reversal.

The SCV wanted to place the marker at the park and was encouraged to do so by the Division of Memphis Parks & Neighborhoods. The SCV said the department approved the location of the marker’s placement and asked for its name to be inscribed on it.

Judge Gibson ruled the group’s interest in the marker showed they had an interest in preserving the name of the park.

We reached out to a spokesperson for the Sons of Confederate Veterans but have not heard back.