After court decision, Confederate statues unlikely to ever return to Shelby County

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After years of debate and lawsuits, the Tennessee Supreme Court has seemingly turned the page on the Confederate statues that used to be on display in Memphis.

It’s been almost two years since the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis came down, and now city leaders are hoping this state court decision provides closure.

But between protests, debates and lawsuits, the statues have still been very much present in Memphis.

But Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Tennessee decided it will not consider an appeal by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who claimed the way the City of Memphis sold the parks and removed the statues was illegal.

“Everything we did was legal,” Bruce McMullen, chief legal officer for the city said. “We thought it through very well, and we were confident that this would ultimately be the result. But I can’t lie to you, we were happy.”

Now, the nonprofit that owns the statues, Memphis Greenspace, will have full power to decide what happens next with the two monuments. While they’re not sure who they’ll sell the statues to, they are adamant that they never return to Shelby County.

“Whomever takes the monuments, our restriction would be that the monuments can never cross Shelby County lines ever again and come back into this community, and this restriction would have to travel with the monuments,” Van Turner with Memphis Greenspace said.

Memphis Greenspace still has to finalize a lawsuit in local court with the surviving family of Forest, whose remains are still at Health Sciences Park, but they’re hoping for an amicable process.

“We will respect the wishes of the current family members,” Turner said. “All of that will have to be worked out in the local lawsuit pending in chancery court, and I think we’re up for it. We’re up for a resolution where everyone wins.”

We did reach out to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to get their reaction to the decision, but we have not heard back.

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