As a child growing up in the Chattanooga area, at an early age I became fascinated with the history that cloaks the city. In those days there was enough pollution to cover the town and its history but that didn't stop tourists from coming to visit Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and the Chickamauga battlefield.
Chattanooga's leadership was not very far sighted and seemed to delight in ignoring the value of its history.
During the last few decades the city cleaned up and many more tourists came to enjoy the waterfront and still come to better "see" the historic sites.
But, unfortunately, Chattanooga's Mayor Berke is apparently ashamed of the hand that helps "feed" him. First, he ran off the majestic Delta Queen by making that historic resource feel so unwelcome that the grand old vessel sailed for better days in a better place. Now, the enlightened Mayor is insulting families, descendants and friends of the Confederate cemetery. It is a cemetery that includes at least one black citizen, federal soldiers and, of course, hundreds of Confederate soldiers. Berke says the city will no longer act as "trustee" for this hallowed ground.
I do not live in Chattanooga and have not for years, but I visit often. It is way past time for those "running" Chattanooga to understand the value of the historic sites there, including the cemetery, and that these venues are part of every American's history. Treating specially revered places with such provincial disrespect seems odd for a community so desperately in need of clean tax dollars like those paid by heritage tourists.
The Confederate Cemetery will be fine and tourists will continue to come to study their history, welcome or not. It is the soul of Chattanooga that is in trouble.
Gregory L. Wade