Meeting to discuss statue of Confederate general

A monument featuring a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest is part of Veterans Plaza at the base of Myrtle Hill Cemetery where it has stood since 1952 when it was moved there from the middle of Broad Street.

An update on the statue of a Confederate general in Myrtle Hill Cemetery is expected to be presented to the Rome City Commission at its Feb. 8 session.

“There’s no timeframe, but we need to begin taking action,” Commissioner Bill Collins said regarding the board’s July 13, 2020, emergency resolution to relocate the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Commissioner Mark Cochran raised the issue during the board’s Monday night caucus, underscoring that “the word ‘emergency’ set a tone,” an expectation of a fast response.

“The public saw us vote unanimously to move the statue to Fort Norton on Jackson Hill,” Commissioner Wendy Davis added, backing him up.

But Mayor Craig McDaniel — who took over the slot from Collins this month — said a state law bars the relocation of historical monuments to sites of lesser prominence.

With the commission’s committees set to resume meeting, McDaniel said the issue would be a priority for the General Administration Committee chaired by Commissioner Jamie Doss. Collins and Commissioner Jim Bojo also are assigned to the committee.

“I think we jumped a little too quickly so we’re going to put that through the committee ... and get off to a fresh start this year,” Doss said.

Two citizen subcommittees — one to examine ways to tell the rest of Forrest’s controversial history and one to look at the potential for honoring other people important to Rome’s history — also are slated to start their work soon.

Cochran and Davis argued that several other cities have moved their monuments in defiance of state law, but McDaniel said he wants firmer ground.

“The commission is most effective when what comes before us comes through a well structured and well thought out process ... We’re going to work through the committee,” he said.

Called by McDaniel to explain the complexities, City Attorney Andy Davis noted that the emergency resolution was passed subject to a study of potential locations, the engineering and the cost.

Collins joined in support of the committee mechanism but said Cochran “did good work” through his Redevelopment Committee last year and it’s time to get started.

“Get the cost and report back to the commission at the next meeting on where we’re at,” he said, with Doss voicing agreement.

The recommendations for the statue relocation and creation of the citizen committees stemmed from a June 2020 special called meeting of Cochran’s committee. It drew about 100 people who spent close to two hours debating the merits of preserving history as-is versus recognizing the atrocities within it.

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