Compromise offered to quell debate over renaming park - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Compromise offered to quell debate over renaming park

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

What was declared a "dead issue" seven years ago has been unearthed.

A proposed resolution by Memphis Councilman Myron Lowery has jumped started a new emotional debate about the city park named after controversial Civil War Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The question is: should it be re-named to include Civil Rights pioneer Ida B. Wells.

MORE: Fullilove leaves council meeting in tears
MORE: Removing Forrest marker opens up Pandora's Box
MORE: Ida B. Wells: The Original Rosa Parks
MORE: Civil Rights Museum

Periodic battles over the naming of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park have each time left Memphians with even less enthusiasm to revisit old and tedious ground.

Once upon a time when the world was younger and former Mayor Willie Herenton was the "forever king" of Memphis city government, there came a welcomed decree that put an end to a summer of unrest in his kingdom.

As far as I'm concerned this park controversy is a dead issue," former Mayor Herenton said. "I mean you can't win on this issue. Can't win on this. People have different views. You can't win on this."

"So, the mayor controls the park service," said Lee Millar of the Sons of the Confederacy. "So, that's the end of the issue. End of the story."

Flash forward more than seven years later and guess what? Like indelible ink the controversy over the naming of the park just can't seem to be erased. This time a proposed resolution by Councilman Lowery to co-name Forrest Park by paying homage to Wells, an African-American journalist and Civil Rights pioneer, as well.

Without Lowery on hand to fully explain his intentions, his council colleagues on Tuesday were relegated to diving headlong into the murky waters of their own historical perceptions about the Civil War figure whose statue dominates the park.

"I don't want the devil to seem like he is an angel and Nathan Bedford Forrest was not a friend of black people," Councilwoman Janis Fullilove said.

"He helped black people in the city by providing good jobs for them and urging other citizens to provide jobs," refuted Councilman Bill Boyd.

So, completely ignoring the sageness in the phrase "those who don't learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them" the council again finds itself in another Confederate park tizzy. However, this time Councilman Lee Harris, thinks he has a quick solution to thwart another descent into what many regard as an issue both ridiculous and unproductive.

Harris says he'll talk to Lowery about a compromise resolution.

"The naming of a park is an honor and it's an honor for those who've done exceptional conduct," Councilman Lee said. "Nathan Bedford Forrest, at best, has a mixed record. At worst has done despicable things. I'm going to talk to him about, maybe we can just name the park Ida B. Wells Park and call it a day.

"I think that's a compromise I think that's something that seven city council members can get behind," the councilman added. "At least, I'm hopeful that they can, and that we'll never have to revisit this thing again."

Of course an even quicker solution to avoid a potential impasse would be for Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to take a page from his predecessor and immediately declare no name change for the park no matter what the council passes as a resolution. End of story.

But, in the fractious "Kingdom of Memphis" that's almost too easy an answer isn't it?

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