Tennessee residents petition to change street name possibly related to KKK member

Posted at 7:56 PM, Mar 06, 2019

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Residents on one Tennessee street said they want the street’s name changed in an effort to distance themselves from a Confederate general.

People living on Forrest Avenue said they don’t want people thinking their street is named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, slave trader and member of the Ku Klux Klan.

A statue of Forrest was removed in 2017 because of his controversial legacy.

Resident Jon Richey and several others filed an application to make the change with the Land Use Control Board. There will be a hearing on the change in April.

Richey said he didn’t think much about the street name until he told a black friend of his that the friend should buy a house next door.

“And he said, ‘I don’t think I could live in this street.’ That just kind of bothered me ever since. Made me think about it differently,” Richey said.

This Forrest Avenue was initially spelled “Forest Avenue.” The second R was added many years ago, though the reason for the change is unclear.

Related: Virginia ACLU calls on Gov. Northam to remove Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue

Some residents said that since people are unsure why the name changed, there’s no evidence to suggest it was meant to honor the Confederate general.

“There’s been absolutely no connection between Forrest Avenue and Nathan Bedford Forrest,” a resident said. The resident, who asked not to be identified, wanted the name preserved. “I was born on this street, my dad passed away on this street, and I’ve had two cousins get married on Forrest Avenue. The history of that is a big deal to me.”

Applicants for a street name change are normally required to pay for new signs. If their request is granted, Richey said he and his peers are asking that the cost be waived since the name they want is the original one.

Even without the cost, the change would not be easy.  Homeowners and businesses would have to amend anything with their address on it.