New Names Proposed for Controversial Memphis Parks

New Names Proposed for Controversial Memphis Parks

Mayor A C Wharton and City Councilman Jim Strickland have suggested new names for three Memphis parks.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis officials are proposing a compromise after the City Council stripped Confederacy names from three city parks.

Mayor A C Wharton and Councilman Jim Strickland held out the olive branch Wednesday, saying the city needs to unite and get on to more important issues.

"I think what the mayor and I wanted to do was start the discussion on trying to compromise and achieve some consensus," Strickland told The Commercial Appeal.

In a letter to a nine-member Park Naming Committee, Wharton and Strickland suggested calling the former Forrest Park by the name Civil War Park. It currently is called Health Sciences Park because it is close to the University of Tennessee medical school. The officials propose erecting a privately funded statue of Ulysses S. Grant to complement the existing statue of Confederate cavalry officer Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Grant, a Union general during the Civil War and later president, had his headquarters in Memphis for a time during the conflict. The grave of Forrest and a monument to him have been at the park for more than a century.

The letter suggested changing the name of the former Confederate Park to the Battle of Memphis Park.

That park has a marker about the 1862 battle on the Mississippi River between Union and Confederate ships. The letter from Wharton and Strickland said much more about the history of the war could be interpreted for visitors to the park, which overlooks the river.

There was no suggestion for the park formerly called Jefferson Davis Park, which honored the president of the Confederate States of America.

The City Council quickly renamed the parks on Feb. 5 after the placement of a privately funded marker that identified Forrest Park. There was also pending state legislation that would prevent renaming parks in the future.

The move to rename the parks was led by council member Lee Harris, who said he supports the new names advanced by Wharton and Strickland.

"Those are both historic names and neutral names, so I think those names are not too offensive to any segments of our community," Harris said. "And so I think that, hopefully, those are names that people will rally around and put this matter to bed."

 

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