Forrest monument suit dismissed

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 8, 2003

The monument of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest will stay put.

For now.

The monument has been sitting in Old Live Oak Cemetery awaiting a ruling on a lawsuit filed against the City of Selma by Friends of Forrest Inc.

The suit, filed May 17, 2001, sought to have the monument restored to its original location on the grounds of the Vaughan-Smitherman Building.

In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. Senior District Judge Brevard Hand dismissed one federal claim and three state claims against the city.

According to Valerie Chittom, an attorney representing Selma, the federal claim was dismissed with prejudice. The claim, which dealt with allegations Selma discriminated against the Friends of Forrest based on race and failed to prosecute alleged monument vandals, could be appealed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but it can’t return to federal court.

The three state claims &045;&045; breach of contract, conversion and defamation &045;&045; could be filed in state court in Dallas County.

Chittom said she didn’t believe the state claims could result in the monument being moved again

Benjamin Austin, a spokesman for the Friends of Forrest, had not yet seen a copy of the order Thursday night and declined to comment.

Selma City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said he knew there was no basis in the suit. &uot;We can move forward and put the Nathan Bedford Forrest issue behind us,&uot; Nunn said.

Chittom agreed. &uot;All the city did was defend itself and at this point it looks like they did the right thing,&uot; she said.

Friends of Forrest member Pat Godwin approached then-Selma Mayor Joe T. Smitherman about placing the monument at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum around 1999. According to the order, the Smitherman trustees voted unanimously on Feb. 17, 2000, to allow the monument to be placed.

Due to protesting after the monument’s installation, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. proposed around Oct. 15, 2000, to cover the statue. No action was taken.

On Jan. 15, 2001, during a parade in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., a rope was placed around the monument’s head and several people pulled it until the rope broke, states the order.

The City Council voted on

Feb. 26, 2001, to move the monument from the Vaughan-Smitherman Building to Old Live Oak Cemetery.