The Memphis businessman -- one of four
speakers talking about the parks controversy -- repeated his
call to move the statue of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and the
interred remains of Forrest and his wife to Elmwood Cemetery.
Several in the audience heckled, jeered and
shouted, "You're nuts!"
Others in the crowd of 60 to 70 people urged
the hecklers to be respectful. The audience never got out of
hand, but there in the back, ready to maintain order, were
Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell and two deputies.
By the time the meeting broke up 90 minutes
later, a number of people had warmed to the idea, suggested by
City Councilman Myron Lowery, of expanding Forrest Park by
erecting a monument of an African-American Confederate soldier
or adding a statue of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells.
"I am delighted to see we might have
something we can agree upon," Shelby County Historian Ed
Williams told the crowd.
Memphian Eroneus 'Ron' Shipp sat quietly
taking notes during the luncheon at the Piccadilly Cafeteria at
5272 Mt. Moriah View Road. A descendant of Wells, he would love
to see a statue of her in a city park.
"That's what I'm pushing for. I'm glad I came
for the information," he said. "I would like to a see a park
with a wider, broader theme about how Memphis has handled its
race situation over the years."
John Ellis, who is a great-great nephew of
Forrest, had given Lowery the idea of expanding the parks. Ellis
is opposed to moving the statue.
"We can give both sides of the war," he said
adding that no one recognizes that thousands of Confederate
soldiers were black.
As the meeting broke up, other ideas emerged.
Andre Matthews, a Buffalo Soldier descendant, suggested that
instead of three parks, Memphis should have all its Civil War
history in a single park.
Lowery said he wants the parks discussion to
continue in the community, or if necessary, a referendum next
Now the truth...
After the vigil in Confederate Park, I drove
over to the Picadilly resturant to attend the Dutch Treat
Luncheon, where the topic was the 3 WBTS named city parks, and
the public was invited. This was the main reason I traveled the
6 hours each way and spent darn near $100 in gas and food.
My intention was to provide some knowlegable
real live input to some of those making the decisions and
running their mouths. I was hot and thirsty and still wearing my
CS Infantry Corporal's uniform when I arrived 15 minutes after
the meeting had started, and yes, I did make a scene upon
entering amongst those present, exactly as planned ;-)
The room was full to capacity, so I joined
those who were looking on at a waist high partition. The DTL
group was probably 95% white , while the regular Picadilly
customers were probably 95% black.
Where I stood I noticed the room had been
covered in "Save our Historic Parks" signs. A table at the
entrance had a sign in sheet, and a basket for donations, along
with some literature and books for sale. Behind the podium
were US and Tennessee flags.
An elderly gentleman (Ed Williamson) was
finishing up telling the history of the 3 parks when I stood at
the wall. After that another man stood up and began speaking. At
the table beneath where I was standing were 2 women and a teen
girl with some literature on their table. I asked could I read
it, and they gladly passed me a copy.
The ladies were part of the SOHP group,
doing the activist thing by covering the room in signs and
passing out info, but not very well I might add. The info was
just basically "The parks are old, and we wish them not be
changed" type - real weak.
I handed their info back and pulled mine
out and asked her to read it. It was 3 pages long. The 1st two
sheets contained a synopsis of the 1871 US Congressional report
clearing NB Forrest of Klan activities and exhonerating him of
the 'Ft Pillow Massacre', and the 3rd page was his speech to the
Jubilee of Pole Bearers.
1/2 way thru the 2nd page, she lit up and I
could've had a new girlfriend right then and there! I mean she
smiled at me, slid over and told me to come sit next to her at
their table, and during the rest of the meeting kept chatting
and whispering (park stuff only!) in my ear. She gleefully
handed it to her friend who had the same change in personality.
It was about this time that Ken Schledwitz
took the mic....
In his first speech about changing the parks,
it was about saving the poor afreakin-amerikanz from their
emotions, Forrest being the klan, and all kinds of hate the park
represents to most.At that time I had the nerve to say the work
"LIAR" outloud under my breath, directed at Schledwitz.
From what I observed, at least 1/2 of the
room were SOHP folks and some additional Good ol boy types
wearing camo and reading Civil War Times. Everybody was quiet
and respectful to a fault. This was about to change...
The nerdy girl from UC Berkley (Lela
Garlington) reporter wrote of shouts and "You're Nuts" calls,
but that would've had to have taken place in the 15 minutes
prior to my arrival, as nothing even close to shouts or 'nuts'
calls were heard by me. Perhaps she embellished ???
Anyway, everytime Schledwitz uttered an
untruth about Forrest, I either said liar or booed. Yup I admit
I was a 'Heckler' and heckled is what Schledwitz got.
After a few of these utterances, I tapped Mr
John Ellis on the shoulder (Forrest's decendant on my right) and
asked him how long was he going to allow Schledwitz to continue
bashing his ancestor like that.
Mr John Ellis is around 50-60, a heavy set
man with a deep loud voice, dressed nice and had a thick
notebook full of notes and quotes. (He jumped on the chance to
take the 3 pages of info I had brought, which I take to mean
that those most involved in defending the General in Memphis at
this most very important time lack some most very important
Mr Ellis said he had something coming up
for him soon, just wait.
A man was going around the room for the 2nd
time collecting sheets of paper that had been supplied to those
folks wishing to ask a question of the panel. The first time was
just after my arrival. I had noticed on the women's literature
there was such a space for written questions, so with Mr Ellis'
borrowed pen, I quickly jotted down the first thing that came to
my mind and passed it on.
" How is it that other groups and races can
celebrate their heritage and history with the exception being
those decended of Confederate Heritage?"
Others in the room began to feed off my
boos and comments towards Schledwitz enough so that when he
finally sat down, he was booed off the stage by numerous folks!
That was a long way from the claps he received coming up.
The Q&A began , and my question was the
second one read! The room erupted in applause and cheers! 1/3 of
my mission was accomplished.
Councilman agitator Myron Lowery took first
shot at an answer. He walks up to the podium, turns to the flags
behind him and says "Do you see any Confederate flags here? No
because they lost..." He began receiving a loud stream of boos.
The audience had came over to my way of thinking- shame on me
upsetting the decorum. Lowery sat down dejected. Noone else
tried to answer my question :-)
The very next question asked was "If these
parks are changed, aren't you setting us on the slippery slope
of change when the city becomes majority Hispanic and they
demand name changes?"
Lowery jumped back up to the microphone, and
told us in the gallery that "No, he didn't believe so because he
could think of nothing in their city offensive to the Hispanic
Someone on the other side blurted out that
the name of 'Volunteers" would be offensive because of the name
of the troops Tennessee sent to fight in the Mexican War.
Someone else hollered out "What about Davey Crocket and the
Lowery turned white and sat down.
Then came time for live questions from the
Mr Ellis stood up and forcefully asked to
submit 2 questions, which he was granted.
Both were directed towards Schledwitz. Mr
Ellis whipped out his notebook and began grilling him. "Mr
Schledwitz, WHO do you represent? You don't represent the city
(and gave proof) and you don't represent the state (proof) and
you don't represent this groups and that group and you claim you
don't represent the UT hospital, so WHO are you working for?"
With a fake smile Schledwitz told us he was
just a guy with an opinion, and was simply offering advice. He
was booed again.
The other question I don't recall, but it was
more of an indictment against him by Ellis for he attitude and
statements against the General. When John sat down, he turned to
me and asked how he did - I smiled and told him he 'kicked his
I met face to face afterwards with Schledwitz
and told him while shaking his hand I disagreed with his biased
opinion, and told him Forrest wasn't like he said. He began to
tell me 'I have read where...' but I cut him off and aske dif he
had read the 1871 Congressional record that cleared the General.
He had not. I told him to read it before making any such wild
statements like that again and to drop his proposal to seek the
park property for the UT campus. That got the other 1/3rd of my
mission accomplished. The final missing 1/3rd will be when the
parks are saved for posterity.
Thanx & God Bless