Remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed from Health Sciences Park

WATCH: Remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed from Health Sciences Park


The remains of Confederate General and former slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife will leave Memphis for good.

His family and the people in charge of Greenspace, which operates the park where his remains have been more than a century, have come to an agreement.

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The lawsuit over his remains is over and plans are being drafted for what the site at Health Sciences Park will look like once the pedestal and the coffins are removed.

The debate about Forrest being there has lasted for decades. Critics wanted him gone. Supporters of Confederate history wanted him to stay.

A spokesman for the family told FOX13 Forrest and his wife will be disinterred and taken to place close to his birth.

It was an argument within Memphis as divisive as the civil war.

The remains of former slave trader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife buried in what’s now known as Health Sciences Park since 1904, not in the cemetery as instructed in his will.

The debate ended Monday when his family and Sons of Confederate Veterans dropped their lawsuit to keep him in Health Sciences Park.

“He would say that Memphis is not the same as when he lived here. And rather than have all the turmoil, he would rather move,” said Lee Millar with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans Forrest Chapter.

The remains of Forrest fueled almost weekly protests until the city attorney devised a clear strategy to have them removed by selling the city-owned park to a nonprofit group called Greenspace, Inc.

Supporters of Forrest filed a lawsuit that failed to return the statue and finally decided to concede the last legal battle to keep the remains in Memphis.

“It shows that everyone is on the same page. Everyone is ready to turn that page and move on and move forward,” Van Turner, president of Greenspace, Inc. told FOX13.

Turner said it could cost as much as $200,000 to remove the pedestal and remains from a site built more than a century ago, but no tax dollars will be used.

“We have private donors who have stepped up to help out in this process,” Turner said.

Lee Millar said it could take months as the process will need court review, then they have to find specialized engineers to dismantle the granite site and use archaeologists to remove the remains below.

“The general and Mrs. Forrest were placed in solid metal caskets. So, if those have held up, then they are in good shape,” he said.

So what happens once the site is gone? Turner said it will be grassed over and park benches will be placed there.

It could be all gone by the fall unless COVID-19 adds more delays.

The pandemic has made the wheels of justice grind even slower. That includes Chancery Court where the lawsuit to keep the remains in Health Sciences Park was thrown out.

Millar said the National Confederate Museum in Columbia, Tenn. is where he’d like the new resting place to be.

“I can’t say for sure but that is quite likely,” he said.

Getting to this point of having the family and Sons of Confederate Veterans reach an agreement to not pursue legal fights to keep Forrest in Memphis was delayed by COVID-19.

“It already has, said Millar. “With court being closed we couldn’t file any petitions to exhume the bodies or anything like that.”

WATCH: Why COVID-19 could delay the process of removing Forrest's remains from park

Millar said the pandemic might complicate the delicate job removing a granite pedestal and unearthing the metal coffins for transport.

“It may slow down the disinterment as well because of the need to be a safe distance apart and be careful,” he said.

FOX13 learned the process to dismantle the site could take up five months, but if the city and county are still under Phase One of the Back to Business plan, that process could take longer.

“But now that things are slowly and carefully opening back up, I hope we will be able to get things back on track,” Turner said.

That fall date could get pushed back as the court system tries to catch up because a judge will have sign off on almost all parts of this process.