The national director of a Ku Klux Klan faction says his group will pay to move a statue and the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from a university park in Memphis, Tenn., to Arkansas.
The offer comes a month after the Memphis City Council voted to have the Confederate burial memorial removed. As recently as last weekend, it again was the target of vandalism where someone sprayed “Black Lives Matter” on the monument, Memphis station WREG-TV reported.
Pastor Thomas Robb, who heads the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, issued a press release today saying he wants to move the general’s statue and remains to Robb’s Christian Revival Center near Harrison, Ark. But whether that’s a publicity stunt or a real possibility remains to be seen.
In its unanimous vote in early July, the Memphis City Council voted to exhume the remains of Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann, and have them reburied at the Elmwood Cemetery, the city’s oldest graveyard. It was there where the Confederate lieutenant general was originally buried after he died in October 1877 at age 56, reportedly from complications of diabetes.
There are laws, including the Heritage Protection Act of 2013, that protect the monument. To have it moved to Elmhurst Cemetery or anywhere else, the City of Memphis will have to submit a request to the 24-member Tennessee Historical Commission, which meets in October, according to various media reports.
In 1904, as the South glorified the Confederacy with shrines, plaques and statues, the remains of the Confederate general -- widely seen as the father of the Ku Klux Klan -- were moved from Elmhurst Cemetery to a park in Memphis named in his honor.
But in 2013, the park, now part of the University of Tennessee campus, was renamed the Health Sciences Park amid new public concerns about honoring a man who some say was a brutal racist, whose troops murdered black Union soldiers before he became a founding member of the KKK.
The state of Tennessee still has an estimated 32 other historical marks and statues honoring Forrest. He remains a leading Confederate hero for such groups as Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy and the League of the South.
“While the remains of Forrest and his wife will be moved to their original burial ground, there is fear that the grave will remain unsecure and under constant threat of desecration,” Robb wrote in a statement. “Therefore, [I am] requesting that the remains be placed at the Christian Revival Center church where they will be undisturbed.”
The phone number listed for Robb’s headquarters was busy during several attempts and he couldn’t be reached for comment.
“Nathan Bedford Forrest, while condemned by many for his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, was a noble Christian man who sought healing for the Southern states,” Robb said. “He was involved with the Klan not because it was a violent organization, but rather it brought security and order during a chaotic time, for both black and white."
The “mission statement” at Robb’s church – laced around Christian Identity beliefs he once preached alongside Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler -- says white people are the true children of God, the true Israel, who must live separately from other races. Whites must “honor their heritage, not despise it,” the mission statement says.
“God is calling white men and women to take a message to their brothers and sisters,” Robb says at his church web site. “It is our responsibility to warn our brothers and sisters that Satan's plan for world domination, one-world government, racial amalgamation, etc. is setting its sights on us.”