The remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife are being removed from a Memphis park

On Tuesday, work began on exhuming the remains of General Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park.

(CNN)Crews have started to remove the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from a Memphis park where a monument of him once stood.

The decision to move their remains was decided last year after the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a non-profit organization of male descendants of Confederate veterans, agreed to drop a pending lawsuit against park owners, according to CNN affiliate WREG.
Forrest, who was a slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan leader, and his wife, Mary Ann, had their graves at Health Sciences Park, where a monument to Forrest used to be.
    The work to remove the remains started Tuesday morning and is being paid for by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, Lee Millar a spokesperson for the group and fifth cousin of Forrest, told CNN.
      The disinterment is expected to take three weeks, Millar said. Forrest and his wife will be reinterred on private land that will be publicly accessible in Columbia, Tennessee.

      The years long battle over the remains

      City leaders voted in 2013 to change the name of three parks that honored Confederate figures in Memphis. Then, in 2015, they voted to move the Forrest statue.
        To proceed with the removal, they sought a waiver from the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, a law that governs the removal, relocation or renaming of memorials on public property. But the Tennessee Historical Commission denied the city's request.
        The denial led the city council to pass legislation allowing it to sell parkland to Memphis Greenspace, a non-profit that provides park-based recreation to the city.
        The non-profit took down Forrest's monument in December 2017, as well as a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
        The Forrest statue was placed in 1904 amid the passage of Jim Crow-era segregation laws and the Davis statue was placed in 1964 amid the battle for civil rights, according to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. When the statues were removed, the mayor said they "no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum."
        The Sons of Confederate Veterans had fought the city's efforts to remove the statues. The removal promoted the group to file a lawsuit against the city of Memphis and Memphis Greenspace, according to CNN affiliate WMC. The group said that it believed the removal violated the state cemetery law and Heritage Protection Law.
        "It is a deliberate attempt to avoid the state law and the city is breaking the law," Millar with Sons of the Confederate Veterans, told CNN affiliate WREG in December 2017.
        In 2020,