MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The remains of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife have been removed from Health Sciences Park in Memphis, where they had been interred since the early 20th century.
The remains were discovered Monday, June 7 at 9:01 a.m., said Van Turner with Memphis Greenspace.
“We would hope that the example showed here with the safe removal of the monuments and the safe removal of the remains will serve as an example of what we can do to move this city forward,” said Turner, a Shelby County commissioner who called it “a great day for Memphis.”
They are currently in an undisclosed location, said Lee Millar with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Members of the Forrest family were present for the removal, and a licensed funeral director was in charge of the process. A public announcement was not made.
“We wanted to do this in a very reverent manner to honor the general and his wife,” Millar said.
Memphis Greenspace, the nonprofit that was granted ownership of the former city-owned Forrest Park, along with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is taking responsibility for the remains and monument, joined city officials to make the announcement Friday.
A large statue of Forrest was removed from the park at 9:01 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2017 after the city transferred ownership of the park to a nonprofit. The pedestal supporting it remained until workers began removing it several days ago.
About eight feet under the pedestal were the tombs of the former Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader, along with his wife. Forrest died in 1877 and was originally buried in Elmwood cemetery before the remains were moved and the monument built on Union Avenue in the early 20th century.
The remains will be relocated to Columbia, Tennessee.
Removal was complicated both by COVID-19, which held up the legal process because courts were closed, and because no one knew precisely where the remains were buried. Old burial records were used to find the location.
“From there it became more like an archaeological excavation site, so that we could preserve the remains and get them removed safely and in a dignified way,” said funeral director Brent Taylor.
Forrest’s casket was intact; his wife’s had deteriorated so a new casket was provided. A Victorian cradle was also found.
Turner said the park, formerly known as Forrest Park, will host a Juneteenth Festival in a few days. He said the plan for the park is for it to be “just a park” for now, without any symbolism.
Memphis Greenspace also removed a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Memphis Park downtown.