Removed statues of Forrest, Davis given to Confederate group

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee nonprofit group has handed over statues of Confederate leaders Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, two years after they were removed from public parks in Memphis, officials said Tuesday.

City of Memphis legal officer Bruce McMullen said the statues of Forrest and Davis have been given to Forrest’s descendants and the Sons of Confederate Veterans “to display them as they wish.”

The statues’ location was not disclosed, but they could be re-erected at some point.

Memphis and the Confederate veterans’ group have battled in court over the statues’ removal from two city parks. Forrest’s equestrian statue, which stood over the grave of the Confederate general and his wife, and the monument of Davis, the Confederate president, were removed from the parks under the cover of night on Dec. 20, 2017.

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At the time, Tennessee law limited the removal or changing of historical memorials on public property. Memphis used a loophole in the historical preservation law by selling the public park for $1,000 to Greenspace, a private nonprofit.

Greenspace then removed the monuments, which were then stored at an undisclosed location. However, the remains of Forrest and his wife are still buried at the park where his statue stood for decades.

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has ruled that the removals did not violate state law because the statues were on private property when removed.

The state Supreme Court ruled in October that it would not hear an appeal by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The General Assembly has passed a bill making it harder for cities to get around the law. They approved a measure barring cities from selling or transferring property that has historic memorials without permission from the Tennessee Historical Society — or a court.

Forrest was a slave trader in Memphis before leading a cavalry in the Confederate army. He became a leader of the early Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War.

Davis was a U.S. senator from Mississippi who became Confederate president during the Civil War.

McMullen’s statement does not say when the statues were handed over. H. Edward Phillips, a lawyer for Forrest’s family and the Confederate veterans’ group, said Forrest’s descendants were happy to have closure in relation to the statues.

“It is now a time for healing,” Phillips said.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether the agreement to hand over the statues includes settlement of other pending legal matters concerning their removal.

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