The likelihood is strong that, as of Monday, when the Shelby County Commission meets for its next full public session in the auditorium of the Vasco Smith County Building auditorium, yet another distinguished local name, that of the late D’Army Bailey, will be affixed to a venerable public building — in this case, the Shelby County Civil Courthouse.
But the vote may not be unanimous. Republican David Reaves, who represents a Bartlett district, abstained from the 7-0 vote of the Commission’s general government committee on Wednesday, and is inclined to do so again on Monday.
Reaves explained on Thursday that he abstained from voting on the add-on resolution — sponsored by Republican Terry Roland and seconded by Democrats Eddie Jones and Justin Ford — because, “We learned about it just before the meeting got under way, and I personally didn’t know enough about D’Army Bailey or the import of the resolution to cast a vote on it,’ he said.
He added, “I think there’s too much haste involved sometimes in these decisions to name something after somebody before we’ve had time to fully digest the nature of their lives.”
Reaves indicated he was sympathetic to the fact that D’Army Bailey’s brother Walter Bailey, a Democrat and Commission colleague who was absent on Wednesday, desired the name change. But he said there were things that D’Army Bailey had said or done that he needed more time to evaluate. “I still remember his getting on TV and pouring out vitriol about the suburbs’ desire for independent school systems.".
And Reaves said categorically that he would not be in favor of another resolution that was before the general government committee on Wednesday but was deferred until the next committee meeting.
This was a resolution, sponsored by Bailey, and co-sponsored by four other Democrats plus Republican Steve Basar, that would put the Commission on record as supporting the vote of the Memphis City Council to seek removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statute and the graves of Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park (formerly Forrest Park).
“I have heard from my constituents, and they are wholeheartedly opposed to any removals of that sort,” said Reaves. “These are people who have a strong feeling about their own heritage, just as others do about theirs, and they don’t want a change.”
Reaves said he was reasonably certain that other suburban members of the Commission shared his views and he asked rhetorically, “Which is a better resolution to present to the state? A unanimous one from the City Council, or a divided one from the County Commission?”
Unlike the Council, the Commission has no operative control of the park issue; its opinion would be wholly symbolic.