Aug. 25– Savannah’s chances of acquiring a controversial Confederate monument rose last week when the Memphis City Council voted 11-1 on final reading to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from its current Health Science Park home.
Some Savannah officials want to see Confederate general, slave trader and one-time KKK leader Forrest’s likeness relocated here in an effort to attract history tourists to Hardin County, home to Shiloh National Military Park, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
In a well publicized letter to Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, Savannah Mayor Bob Shutt requested the statue and offered to pay the associated expenses for its relocation.
“Like many small southern cities that have lost their sewing and shoe factories, Savannah has realigned our economic development plans, and we now depend on tourism as one of the main sources of revenue for our citizens,” Shutt wrote. “We are confident that the Forrest Monument would garner additional visitors.”
Forrest’s monument has become a lightning rod for controversy since a national movement to remove Confederate symbols rose up after a white supremacist shot nine black worshippers inside a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Protestors have hovered around the monument for most of the summer, some even threatening to dig up Forrest’s remains themselves if Memphis officials did not take action sooner rather than later.
Recently, the statue’s base was vandalized with the words “Black Lives Matter” written in red paint across the front.
Despite the feelings of many, local officials believe the Forrest monument should and would be seen as a Civil War heritage symbol in Savannah.
Savannah City Commissioner and self-described heritage tourist Kent Collier told The Courier that Savannah is a “geographical fit” for the statue.
“In Savannah it would be seen as a Civil War monument and not a tribute to a man who was a slave trader and member of the KKK. His monument would be safe here,” he said.
Legal battles loom for the Memphis City Council as groups opposed to relocating the Forrest memorial take aim. The process to possibly relocate the monument could be a lengthy one.
A Memphis official told a Memphis media outlet that several entities have made inquiries about the statue, but said it would be premature to respond to offers.