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Memphis begins work of exhuming remains of early KKK leader, removing them from public park

Nathan Bedford Forrest remains
Posted at 5:27 AM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 10:12:52-04

Work began Tuesday in Memphis, Tennessee, to move the remains of a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader out of the public park that once bore his name.

Construction workers began the process Tuesday of exhuming the remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from a monument in Health Sciences Park.

Forrest's remains are interred under a monument pedestal that once displayed a statue of the Confederate general on horseback. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, that statue was erected in 1904 in what was then known as Forrest Park.

The park was renamed in 2013. The statue of Forrest was removed from the pedestal in 2017, according to WMC-TV in Memphis.

According to WREG-TV removal of Forrest's remains began after the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) dropped a lawsuit against the city. Instead, the city of Memphis and Shelby County agreed to allow the organization to take possession of Forrest's remains.

SCV says Forrest will be re-interred three hours away in Columbia, Tennessee, at the site of the National Confederate Museum. SCV is also in possession of the Forrest statue that once topped his grave.

The Commercial Appeal reports that work to remove Forrest's remains will likely take two to three weeks. The park is slated to host a Juneteenth celebration later this month to celebrate Black Americans' emancipation from slavery.

Forrest served as a general in the Confederate army between 1861 and 1865. After the war, he joined the Ku Klux Klan — which has its roots in Tennessee — and was eventually elected as the hate group's first "Grand Wizard."

A statue of Forrest remains in place in the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville. A state historical commission ruled earlier this year that the bust could legally be removed from the building, though lawmakers must provide further approval before that happens.