Descendants of Nathan Bedford Forrest filed a lawsuit Monday against the city of Memphis, the Memphis City Council, and Memphis Greenspace Inc. for the desecration the family’s gravesite.
The Forrest family, including five of Forrest’s great-great grandsons filed the complaint Monday in a Shelby County Chancery Court, saying that the defendants “willfully and knowingly conspired to, and did, in fact, desecrate the graves and headstone monument of N. B. Forrest and wife Mary Ann Forrest in December 2017 by the defendants’ illegal removal of the monument and other actions.”
The equestrian statue of Forrest was removed from Health Sciences park last December
by the nonprofit Memphis Greenspace, minutes after the city council approved the transfer of the parks to the nonprofit.
The Forrest statue, along with one of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and a bust of Confederate Capt. Harvey Mathes, which were also removed a year ago, are still being stored in an undisclosed location.
The family maintains that the city violated several sections of the Tennessee Code Annotated relating to historic sites, cemeteries, burial sites, headstones, and monuments. The family also said the city and others violated the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act when the gravesites of Forrest and his wife were disturbed.
Now, the Forrest family is seeking the repair and re-installation of the Forrest statue and the headstones of the graves, as Forrest and his wife are still buried in the park.
Bruce McMullen, chief legal officer for the city of Memphis said the city anticipated this lawsuit and is prepared to defend its actions.
“Every oversight body, including the courts and state comptroller, has found our actions to be lawful or appropriate,” McMullen said. “We expect the same outcome in this case. The city sold Health Sciences and Memphis parks to Memphis Greenspace, legally.”