Three parks with names connected to the Confederacy have been renamed by the Memphis City Council. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate, and Jefferson Davis parks have been given generic names while council figures out a permanent solution.
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Tuesday's move was made in response to state legislators getting involved in the issue. Two state legislators from Middle Tennessee filed a bill trying to control actions of the council. The bill would prevent renaming of any park or other public green space that is named in honor of a historic military figure, event, or organization.
Council members and council attorney Alan Wade said this was in direct response to the debate going on about Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. The city removed a marker from the park in January that was privately paid for by the group Sons of the Confederate Veterans.
The city said proper procedure wasn't followed, but the issue has sparked a debate on the future of the park. Resolutions have been filed to rename the park. But, council was planning on vetting the issue. Instead, a decision was made abruptly Tuesday evening to rename the parks generic names because of the bill filed in Nashville.
"I don't care if the name is Nathan Bedford Forrest, he's a dead man," said Councilman Harold Collins. "We need to be focusing on the living. But except for that, I'm going to vote for this and who knows, we may come back and name the park Nathan Bedford Forrest. But we will never let the legislature in Nashville control what we in Memphis do for our city."
Nathan Bedford Forrest Park is now called Health Sciences Park, Confederate Park is now called Memphis Park, and Jefferson Davis Park is called Mississippi River Park.
Three council members abstained from voting. The rest present voted yes on the name changes. Council attorney Wade says the bill in Nashville, if passed, will now not apply to those parks, so the council can take as long as they want to make a final decision on the names.