Tennessee Historical Commission denies Memphis waiver to remove Confederate statue

The Tennessee Historical Commission denied Memphis a waiver that would remove a confederate statue of Nathan Bedford Forest. (Image: WTVC)

The debate over Confederate statues and whether they should be displayed on city property continues.

In Athens Friday, the Tennessee Historical Commission delayed a vote on whether to allow the city of Memphis to remove a statue of a Confederate general and KKK leader.

In front of a packed house at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, a 29-member panel heard from people for and against the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in Memphis.

That includes the mayor of Memphis.

"The best case scenario is we win our petition, and we are allowed to take it down legally," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

Strickland thinks that could happen as early as the end of November.

The Commission did approve their request to have an administrative law judge rule on whether the city even needs the state's approval to take down the statue.

The bust of the same general was in the news recently when Tennessee state lawmakers voted against its removal from the State Capitol.

Last month, Hamilton County Commissioners voted against the removal of another Confederate general from outside the court-house.

Lawyers from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, warned a vote Friday without enough research could result in legal challenges.

"The discussion that followed talked about the potential lawsuits that could come out of it. They're going to happen either way, but I think the wisest thing to do today would have been to grant the waiver," Tennessee Historical Commission member Keith Norman said.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the group who want to keep the statue up, called Friday a win for history.

"General Forrest has some real blemishes on his record. We get that but he also was a historical figure and we're for preserving history," attorney Douglas Jones said.

The Tennessee Historical Commission next regular meeting is not until February, but the special called session could happen as early as next month.

The Memphis city council will meet on Tuesday to vote on an ordinance that would call for the immediate removal of the statue.

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