A special landmarking committee, created a year ago by the Rome City Commission, has unanimously agreed to put the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue inside the Rome Area History Center on Broad Street.
The statue of the Confederate general was removed from Myrtle Hill Cemetery in January and has been in storage ever since.
During the Tuesday discussion Ann Pullen, a member of the committee, asked if there was any reason that the statue couldn’t just stay in storage indefinitely.
Attorney Frank Beacham explained that Georgia Code 50-3-1 sets strict standards for removing a statue from public display. It might be a valid argument that keeping it in storage was preserving it and protecting it, he said, “but I don’t think you meet the ‘interpret’ part of it. It’s preserve, protect and interpret.”
Mayor Craig McDaniel stressed that whatever the group decided, it needs to be based on sound legal basis.
“It needs to have a legal basis or the city can’t defend it,” McDaniel said.
When the idea of putting the statue in the history center was first brought up, structural engineers were called in to determine if the flooring in the historic building on Broad Street could hold the weight of the monument.
Engineers gave the green light and Director Selena Tilly said the statue would be part of an exhibit placed over a pylon that provides additional support.
The location will include interpretive signage, to be developed by another special committee.
That display will detail a full history of the Confederate States of America general. Forrest played a key role in defending Rome during the Civil War, but he also was involved in atrocities against Black American soldiers both during and after the war.
“If someone wants to go in and see it and read and hear or whatever, it’s up to them,” committee member Sam Malone said.
Tilly said the history center would be able to tell the whole story of Forrest. However, the wording will be left up to the citizens’ Interpretation Committee, which includes Malone, Timothy Pitts, Faye Hicks, Hugh Durden and Jeff Brown.
The sixth member of that panel, Jim Belzer, has passed away and has yet to be replaced by the city commission.