ATHENS, TN – The 29 members of the Tennessee Historical Commission got an earful at the Living Heritage Museum in Athens, Tennessee about Memphis statues, but it didn’t go quite go the way the City of Memphis had hoped.
It took almost 2 hours of discussion and comments.
"Our intent is to remove the statue," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the Commission.
"We demand that immediate action is taken. These statues can no longer stand and represent inaccurate history," Tamera Sawyer with Take Em Down 901 told the Commission.
"I am all for history. If you don't know your history, you are doomed to report it. These should not be removed," said Memphis resident Elizabeth Adams when she went before the Commission.
The Tennessee Historical Commission finally voted on allowing Memphis a waiver to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statute from the center of the city. But the vote came up short with the Commission saying no go.
Commissioner and Memphis resident Reverend Keith Norman made the motion for the waiver to be approved.
"We kinda thought all the time we had an uphill battle. We were a little disappointed in some of the outcomes. We are not through fighting about the issue. This should be a regional issue, local issue, City of Memphis issue. Waivers should be granted," said Norman.
The City did win one of the things it sought, a court hearing on whether the Forrest statue even applied to the 2013 Historical Commission Act protecting war monuments.
"The 2013 Act only references war memorials. The Nathan Bedford Forrest statue is not a war memorial," said City of Memphis Attorney Bruce McMullen.
The City is hoping a judge will agree during a November hearing and give it the go-ahead to take down the statue in December, well ahead of the April 2018 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's death.
"This is whole other issue that the law does not even apply to the statue. We think we have a strong argument," said Mayor Strickland.
But those who support keeping the statue think their argument is just as strong and believe the Historical Commission denying the Memphis waiver is just step one.
"It's just excellent. They followed the law, denied the petition. Our history lives," said Lee Millar with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.