Nathan Bedford Forrest's Remains Being Moved Out of Memphis Park, Into Confederate Museum

After a long legal battle and repeated calls for the removal of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest's remains from a Memphis park, workers arrived on Tuesday to begin the process of moving the former slave trader's body to a Confederate museum.

The removal of the statue and remains were approved by Forrest's relatives, and the move is being overseen by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The remains will be reburied and the statue placed at the National Confederate Museum at Elm Springs in Columbia.

An affidavit from one of Forrest's great-great-grandsons, Bedford Forrest Myers, detailed the plans of the move. Myers also wrote his support of moving the grave from the park.

"Relocating the graves is proper because the Property has lost its character as a burial ground," Myers wrote in a legal filing.

The museum is owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and opened to the public in October. It is located approximately 200 miles from Memphis.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

KKK meeting Memphis park
Members of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan participate in the 11th Annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday march July 11, 2009 in Pulaski, Tennessee. Forrest, a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, played a role in the establishment of the first Ku Klux Klan organization opposing Reconstruction. Plans for the removal of his statue and remains from a Memphis park are currently underway. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Crews prepared to remove the graves of Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park in Memphis' busy medical district. The park used to bear the name of the early Ku Klux Klan leader, and feature a statue of the cavalryman on a horse, but the name has been changed and the statue removed in recent years.

Workers must dismantle the statue's pedestal before they can disinter the Forrests' remains and move them to a Confederate museum in Middle Tennessee. A heavy crane was positioned near the pedestal as workers prepared the site Tuesday morning. The entire process is expected to take weeks.

It is another example of how cities and activists have taken steps in recent years to get rid of statues and monuments of historical figures who supported the South's secession and led the fight against the North, from General Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Forrest sold slaves in Memphis and served in the Confederate army as a cavalry general. In April 1864, Forrest's troops attacked Fort Pillow in northwest Tennessee and killed 200 to 300 Union soldiers, most of them Black.

Forrest was later accused of massacring the Union soldiers. Questions linger as to whether they were killed as they tried to surrender. Northern newspaper reports referred to the battle as an atrocity.

Historians say he later became an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, though some of Forrest's supporters dispute that. Forrest's critics call him a violent racist.

The remains of Forrest and his wife were moved from a Memphis cemetery and buried under the statue of the former Memphis city council member in 1904. The city took down the statue in December 2017 after selling the public park to a nonprofit group, thus circumventing a state law barring the removal of historic monuments from public areas.

A judge in Nashville ruled that the city and Memphis Greenspace, the non-profit that made the park privately operated, removed the statue legally.

The park where Forrest was buried has been the site of protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Activists have long called for the removal of both the statue and the remains. The words "Black Lives Matter" have been painted in yellow by activists on a walkway surrounding the tomb.

The tree-lined park is next to the University of Tennessee's medical school and a community college on Union Avenue, a busy street leading in and out of downtown Memphis.

Nathan Bedford Forrest statue
In this February 6, 2013, file photo, a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest rests on a concrete pedestal at a park named after the confederate cavalryman in Memphis Tenn. Workers arrived at a Tennessee park Tuesday, June 1 to begin the process of digging up and moving the remains of Forrest to a museum hundreds of miles away. Adrian Sainz, File/AP Photo