The city of Chattanooga will no longer have anything to do with the Confederate Cemetery on E. Third Street.
Chancellor Jeff Atherton on Monday approved an agreed order between the city and the local unit of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
It stipulates that the city is no longer a trustee of the cemetery.
An official of the Confederate group said they have been tending the cemetery in recent years and they are willing to fully handle the responsibility.
Attorney Alan Cates represented the city at a seven-minute hearing before the judge. City Attorney Wade Hinton was also present.
Mayor Andy Berke last August said he had asked City Attorney Wade Hinton, on behalf of the city of Chattanooga, to file the necessary paperwork "to confirm the city is no longer listed as a trustee of a Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street."
The mayor said at the time, “Our action today makes it clear that the city of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and form. While we honor our dead, we do not honor the principle for which they fought. Our city should be invested in our future, not a discredited past.
Confederates fought against America to preserve slavery. That is the truth, and we should no longer subsidize any myths to the contrary.”
The city of Chattanooga is not on the deed for the land commonly referred to as the Chattanooga Confederate Cemetery on Third Street by the UTC campus, but had been listed as a trustee in a decree. The 1942 Chancery Court Order outlines multiple trustees, including the city, and is the last document of record for the parcel containing the cemetery.
Attorney Hinton said earlier, “In the past, the city has authorized the Sons of Confederate Veterans to make repairs to the cemetery under the assumption the city owned the property. Based on the records we have reviewed, this does not appear to be the case. There is no reason why we should have any responsibility for maintaining the Confederate Cemetery - a property we do not actually own.”
The mayor also said last August, "The trust owns the property, but the terms of the trust as listed in the decree have expired. The city is asking a Hamilton County court to determine whether it is still considered a trustee of the Confederate Cemetery, and if so, the city is asking to be removed as trustee. The filing will ask the court to determine the rightful owner to maintain the property. The city does not currently have a legal obligation to maintain the property."
The Confederate Cemetery is side by side with the Jewish Cemetery and the Citizens Cemetery at the site of the old Gardenhire farm.
Many of the early settlers of Chattanooga are buried in the Citizens Cemetery.
Mayor Berke also issued this statement last August at a time when a number of Confederate memorials were being torn down or defaced and when one person was killed at a rally at Charlottesville, Va.:
"Last weekend I watched in horror and dismay as events unfolded in Charlottesville. That feeling was compounded as the President failed his leadership test to condemn bigotry and domestic terrorism. As I sat glued to the headlines, I thought about how the basic American values I had been taught by my family and my teachers -- equality, liberty, community -- were being subverted before our very eyes.
"One thing is certain -- racism, hatred and violence don't belong in any American city, and that includes Chattanooga. Our city opposes white supremacy in any form and under any name, and we expect the same from our leaders.
"That's why I have asked our City Attorney to file paperwork to remove the City as a trustee of the Confederate Cemetery on Third Street. Owned by a trust, the city was named as trustee of the cemetery by a local court as far back as 1942.
"Our city should be invested in our future, not a discredited past. Confederates fought against America to preserve slavery. That is the truth, and we should no longer subsidize any myths to the contrary.
"This action today makes it clear that the City of Chattanooga will not condone any traces of the racism that taints our past. Our city is not immune to challenges, and we have proven that we can rise to the occasion by coming together, united.
"It's time to act. Speak up, donate to groups fighting white supremacy, and call your elected officials. Get involved with nonprofits in Chattanooga that are working every day to improve lives like Urban League, NAACP, the Jewish Community Center, the Islamic Center, TN Valley Pride and La Paz. Respond with action -- the Southern Poverty Law Center offers this guide of 10 ways to fight hate. That's not all we can do. Today, report discrimination, get involved with the Ed Johnson Project, become a fair housing tester, and work on Chattanooga's MLK Day of Service.
"Now, more than ever, it is important that we remain a Chattanooga united for progress."