July 23, 2005

The renaming of the Civil War parks is a tempest in a teapot.

The block called Confederate Park is part of the Promenade dedicated to public use by Memphis’s founders. It was later used as a garbage dump. Confederate Park is the only remaining undeveloped part that still allows an unobstructed view of the river.

Confederate Park was created in the early 20th Century to honor the dying-off Civil War veterans of all races, and suffers from benign neglect.

In my opinion, officials could change its name back to its more historic and correct name of Promenade Park. They could also take out the World War II armory that sits with barrels aimed toward the river (to fight off unreconstructed Yankees, no doubt!).

Jefferson Davis Park is a landfill that was converted into a park in the late 1950s. Many people are not aware that Davis lived in Memphis after his release from federal prison and worked in insurance until 1878. His Downtown home was razed in the early 1950s, so maybe the park was to compensate. However, maybe the park could be renamed Civil War Park, or something along those lines, to honor everyone who served.

Forrest Park originally marked the eastern boundary of the city. There are historic photos of folks roller-skating there. It is now the only undeveloped piece of property in the Medical Center.

I have always felt that Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife should be returned to their family plot in that very sacred space, historic Elmwood Cemetery. It has always seemed a little like body-snatching to me that they were exhumed and moved to an unconsecrated space Downtown. The equestrian statue of Forrest would fit in nicely with all the other statues and markers at Elmwood.

If the Civil War re-enactors and history buffs want to glorify Forrest, they could make arrangements with Elmwood Cemetery, raise the money to relocate the bodies, and move and refurbish the statue. It would defuse the current situation in a win-win way.

Then, since our city Parks Commission is impoverished, they could decommission Forrest Park, sell that prime piece of real estate and maybe use the proceeds to operate the public swimming pools, maintain the sports fields and mow the parkways.

Judith Johnson


Commissioner limits constituency

County Commissioner Walter Bailey said on television recently, "The majority of minority people abhor the names of the three parks in Memphis — Confederate, Forrest and Jefferson Davis parks."

This is very amusing, considering that he is supposed to represent all the people of Shelby County. I guess he showed his true colors when he decided to go against the majority of Shelby County voters, and file a lawsuit to overturn the will of the people about term limits for his office.

I guess by now most know who Bailey really serves. He and his other commissioners are really only looking out for themselves.

It would be silly of Bailey to waste his time on teenage pregnancy or black-on-black crime. After all, these real issues have no bearing on him anyway. How much taxpayer money will be wasted on this lawsuit?

Forget the real problems this county has. You just go on keeping people stirred up over silly things, and maybe they won’t have time to ask you about what you have done for the county.

Johnny Kinsey


Priorities are out of order

The city has failing schools, undereducated students, one of the highest baby death rates, black-on-black crime, teenage pregnancies, spiraling debt, ballooning taxes, rampant drug dealings, gang fights in schools, kids killing and getting killed with guns, pervasive crime, and Walter Bailey correctly cannot get elected for another term.

So, let’s complain about a 180-year-old general.

How about we leave the parks alone, respect and learn from the history, and worry about how we can improve our lives today. Nobody ever moved out of Memphis because of our three Civil War parks, but they have moved for the above reasons.

R.C. Fennell


Crime out of control, a school system is failing, litter is on the streets and in the parks, unemployment is skyrocketing, welfare mothers abound, governmental malfeasance, a once-premiere park system decaying, taxes and spending are through the roof.

How does Walter Bailey resolve these thorny issues plaguing the city and county? Let’s rename some parks.

Stop the nonsense and work on the real problems instead of being one of the problems.

Robert Ford


Instead of easing racial tensions, Walter Bailey has raised the tension. He says he is doing it for "his" people. Aren’t we all Americans? Didn’t "his" people, the voters of Shelby County, vote to limit his term as commissioner?

Why not rename Washington Street or Jefferson Avenue, or even Forrest Street, after all, weren’t all of these people slave-holders? Let’s just rename anything in Memphis that is not "politically correct."

Do us all a favor. Come into the 21st Century and spend the same amount of effort on fixing the schools, the county budget, or maybe a new sports arena paid for by the taxpayers to go along with the other two.

Toney D. Booker


Show decency to descendants

Will wonders ever cease?

Walter Bailey and others, including Rickey Peete, are convinced that the parks (Confederate) should be renamed — preferably with a hybrid name, such as "No Name Park," "Man On a Horse Park" and others.

As a direct descendant of a Confederate soldier who fought at Shiloh at the tender age of 16, I resent all this bulloney.

Ira Pylant


Parks issue shrouds real problems

So Walter Bailey is "appalled" by the Confederacy and the Old South. I am appalled by Bailey — a man who has been in public office for over 30 years and still has no clue as to what the real problems of Memphis are. Changing park names is not going to attract those high-tech jobs he talks about on the local news.

Instead of spending taxpayer money on lawsuits to keep his job, he should be finding ways to address the real problems of this city: An uneducated and unskilled workforce, high crime rates and racial divisiveness.

It is too bad he can’t be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Jim McCall


Study can reveal history, diversity

There is a way to keep a positive perception of our city now that the Center City Commission has voted to push the issue of renaming Confederate, Forrest and Jefferson Davis parks before the Memphis City Council (July 22 article).

By leaving the parks named as they are we can see where we came from, how far we have come as well as how far we have to go. Please do not ignore it by renaming historical parks, moving monuments or exhuming graves to sweep our city’s history under the rug.

If the City Council is determined to spend their time on this agenda, let them first request a study of the history of these parks in question. The findings should include how Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Confederacy were seen by all people at the time the parks were created as well as how they are currently viewed by our diverse community.

Let us remember our history and celebrate our multifaceted views.

Scott Campbell


City should rally energies to needs

As a nearby outsider who spends considerable time and money on shopping, dining, entertainment, doctors etc., I am interested in the past, present and future of Memphis.

I keep up with Memphis through The Commercial Appeal and sometimes the local TV stations. Now I see that the Memphis City Council is going to consider changing the names of some of the city parks. That is all right by me; I’ll still remember them as they are now. But if they want to do that, go ahead at the same time and change the names of some of the streets (just to be consistent) such as Crump, Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, etc.

You cannot deny history. Instead, the council should devote their time and energy to solving the budget woes, what to do with The Pyramid, and the other myriad problems that they face.

E. B. Duke

Forrest City, Ark.

Cohen is lone voice of dissent

The Center City Commission has one dissenting vote in the renaming of the Confederate parks? Why are we not surprised it is state Sen. Steve Cohen?

We cannot be surprised because this legislator voices his opinion in an articulate, knowledgeable, compassionate manner on every issue. As a member of a minority, he decries the renaming of the parks and brings civility and reason to the whole controversy.

Kathleen Edelmuth


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