Memphis, TN — Earlier this week, two East Tennessee Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that will allow the state to seize designated historic monuments from private owners. This is one of several bills filed after the removal of Confederate statues from former Memphis parks. Residents are nervous about the removal of the statues because if it is not done properly, there may be a slew of accidents that can cause harm to the people in the surrounding areas.
The Tennessee Historic Properties Act is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesboro and Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains. The bill would allow the state to seize and take part ownership of any privately owned monuments. The bill would also force the city that owned the statue to cover the expenses of the seizure. In addition, the bill threatens city officials who sell statues or do anything “negatively impacting the historic recognition of such property” and “ouster from office.”
This bill has gained momentum since Memphis Greenspace Inc. purchased Health Sciences and Fourth Bluff parks. In addition to the parks, the agency purchased statues of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis, and Captain J. Harvey Mathes. The purchases were made for $1,000 per park and the statues were removed.
The Tennessee Historic Properties Act is not the only legislation that state representatives are pushing. Some of the other bills are:
- A bill being pushed by two Republicans, Rep. James Van Huss and Sen. Janice Bowling, would withhold state funding from any city that participates in the sale or removal of a statue after denial of a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission.
- Republicans, Rep. Steve McDaniel and Sen. Bill Ketron, proposed a bill to create a historic cemetery advisory committee for the Tennessee Historical Committee. This would expand the commission’s control over land used as a cemetery. There is a chance that this covers Health Sciences Park because that is where Forrest and his wife are buried.
- A couple more Republicans are pushing yet another bill regarding this matter. Rep. Dawn White and Sen. Mark Pody are trying to get momentum behind their legislation that will forbid cities from selling or donating the memorials. The legislation does not set any punishments if it is broken.
The city of Memphis is currently facing charges from the descendants of Forrest. They are claiming that the removal of the statue was in violation of state historic preservation laws. The suit is still pending as the family members have requested immediate mediation with the Tennessee Historical Commission.