MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Memphis City Council has a message to state lawmakers when it comes to renaming city parks: stay out of the Bluff City's business.
"We can not allow Republicans in Nashville to sit up and dictate to us," said Councilwoman Janis Fullilove. "There is no reason for these people from Nashville and East Tennessee to be in our business."
On Tuesday, the council voted to change the names of three city parks honoring the Civil War Confederacy.
The council voted 9-0, with three members abstaining, to change Nathan Bedford Forrest Park to "Health Sciences Park."
By the same vote, the council changed the downtown Confederate Park to "Memphis Park," and Jefferson Davis Park is now "Mississippi River Park."
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Civil War General and the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.
"Nathan Bedford Forrest is an early friend to the black man in Memphis, he didn't invent slavery, he was very good to his slaves, they begged him to buy them," said Bill Yarbrough, a current member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who currently care for the park.
Council members said the names could be temporary, but the naming matter took on new urgency when State Representative Steve McDaniel, from outside Jackson, proposed a bill that would block cities from renaming or re-dedicating parks named after war figures.
"I have a long standing history in Memphis, do you?" Becky Muska, a 8th generation resident of Shelby County asked the city council. "Forget tourism, no one wants to visit a city that keeps changing the names."
"We should cherish the history we have, we shouldn't cover it up try and bury it or hide it. We should cherish it," she added.
The council also voted to continue studying the issue, but wanted to make sure the names were changed should McDaniel's bill go through.
"We may come back and name it after Nathan Bedford Forrest, but we will never let the legislature in Nashville control what we do in Memphis for ourselves," said Councilman Harold Collins.
"I don't care if the name is Nathan Bedford Forrest, he's a dead man. We need to be focused on the living," he added.