Councilman Chip Henderson calls for considering Confederate Cemetery options

Councilman Chip Henderson calls for considering Confederate Cemetery options

August 22nd, 2017 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

The Chattanooga Confederate Cemetery is located in between the campuses of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street

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City Councilman Chip Henderson wants to know more about Mayor Andy Berke's recent request to remove Chattanooga as a trustee of the Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street.

"Our action today makes it clear that the City of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and form," Berke announced late Friday afternoon, seven days after the Charlottesville, Va., rally by the so-called "alt-right" at which a woman was killed. "While we honor our dead, we do not honor the principle for which they fought."

The city has previously authorized the Sons of Confederate Veterans to make repairs to the property, Berke said. However, the terms of the trust, filed in 1942, have expired and it appears the city may not actually own the property now. If the trust, which owns the property, no longer exists, the question remains as to who owns it, he said.

At the end of the council's meeting Tuesday evening, Henderson asked City Attorney Wade Hinton to discuss the process leading up to the mayor's decision with the council in an upcoming meeting.

Councilman Chip Henderson brings up Mayor Andy Berke's announcement for Chattanooga to renounce its position as a trustee of the Confederate Cemetery during a Chattanooga City Council voting session Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Henderson requested that the council discuss the topic more in the future.

Councilman Chip Henderson brings up Mayor Andy Berke's...

Photo by Erin O. Smith /Times Free Press.

"It seemed like it was more of an issue of government getting out of the way," Henderson said of his conversation with the city attorney's office Monday, adding it might be worth considering letting the Sons of Confederate Veterans serve as trustee for the cemetery.

According to his conversations with the city attorney's office, the city's role with the Confederate Cemetery has been under discussion for a year, Henderson said.

While Berke certainly addressed the issue of the city's ownership of the land and its responsibility to maintain it, he left no uncertainty about the moral grounding of the decision.

"Our city should be invested in our future, not a discredited past," Berke said. "Confederates fought against America to preserve slavery. That is the truth, and we should no longer subsidize any myths to the contrary."

The city attorney's office will ask Hamilton County Chancery Court to make a ruling to determine who rightly owns the property, Berke said, adding the city does not now have a legal obligation to maintain it.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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This story was updated Aug. 22 at 11:55 p.m.