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Tennessee Heritage Protection Act

Tennessee Historical Commission

The mission of the Tennessee Historical Commission is to protect, preserve, interpret, maintain, and administer historic places, and to encourage the inclusive diverse study of Tennessee's history for the benefit of future generations.

The Tennessee Historical Commission consists of twenty-nine members. Twenty-four members are appointed by the Governor. The twenty-four members appointed by the Governor are equally divided among the three grand divisions of the state. There are five ex officio members: the Governor, the State Historian, the State Archaeologist, the Commissioner of Environment and Conservation, and the State Librarian and Archivist. The Tennessee Historical Commission typically meets each February, June, and October and has purview over policies of the state programs of the agency and approves the budget. The members of the Tennessee Historical Commission are responsible for considering and voting on petitions for a waiver to the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.

The Tennessee Historical Commission is supported by a professional full-time staff that is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the State Historic Preservation Office and other state and federal programs. The staff cannot vote on petitions for a waiver to the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.


Tennessee Heritage Protection Act

The Tennessee Historical Commission cannot comment on the legality of actions taken by the City of Memphis and the Memphis City Council, or provide explanations regarding their actions.  The Executive Director of the Tennessee Historical Commission is currently exploring options available to the Commission with legal counsel, so that these options may be presented to the Commission. 

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act was passed in 2013 and amended in 2016. Generally, the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act prohibits the removal, relocation, or renaming of a memorial that is, or is located on, public property.

A public entity exercising control of a memorial may petition the Tennessee Historical Commission in writing for a waiver from the prohibition.
After consideration of the petition, the Tennessee Historical Commission will vote on whether to grant or deny the waiver.
The citation for the Act is Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-412.

The Act can be found at and also at the State Library and Archives or a law library open to the public (for instance the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of Memphis; or Vanderbilt University). Public libraries may also be able to provide copies.

The Tennessee Historical Commission does not have jurisdiction over a petition to remove, relocate, or rename a memorial that is submitted by an individual or entity that does not exercise control of the memorial.

The Tennessee Historical Commission cannot take actions not authorized by the Act to cause the removal, relocation, or renaming of a memorial.


Rulemaking and Petitions

The Tennessee Historical Commission will meet on January 19, 2018, at 10:00 am EST / 9:00 am CST, to determine whether to review the Initial Order issued by Judge Hilliard, APD, dismissing the Petition for Declaratory Order submitted by the City of Memphis and Memphis City Council regarding application of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2013 to the equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest located in Memphis.

The meeting will be located in room K of the William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee, 37243.

Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-108, allowing meetings to be conducted by electronic or other means under specified circumstances, members will participate via telephone conference call.

Subject to availability of conference lines, the public is allowed to participate in the conference call. To request the telephone number and passcode to access the meeting, please contact Ashlee Pierce at email or 615-770-1085.

Link to Agenda

The Initial Order can be found here:

The Tennessee Historical Commission met on November 9, 2017, at 10:00 am EST / 9:00 am CST, to determine whether to convene a contested case hearing as provided in Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-223, regarding the Petition for Declaratory Order submitted by the Friends of Fort Negley, Inc. relative to historic Fort Negley located in Nashville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Historical Commission voted to request an administrative law judge sitting alone to consider the petition. 

The Petition for Declaratory Order requests that the Tennessee Historical Commission issue an order finding that the Fort Negley property, including the land that was previously the location of Greer Stadium, is covered by and included in the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016 as a memorial. The Petition for Declaratory Order can be accessed here.

The Tennessee Historical Commission held a public hearing on June 13, 2017, regarding rules establishing criteria for consideration of petitions.

The Tennessee Historical Commission discussed and approved the rules at its meeting October 13, 2017 in Athens, Tennessee.

The Government Operations Rule Review Committee recommended approval of the rules December 13, 2017.

The rules will take effect January 17, 2018. 

Two petitions have been filed with the Tennessee Historical Commission:

  • The City of Memphis has petitioned for the removal of a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
  • Middle Tennessee State University has petitioned to rename Forrest Hall, a building that houses the ROTC program.

The rules ultimately enacted will apply to applications for waivers submitted under both the 2013 and 2016 versions of the Heritage Protection Act.

The City of Memphis request to move the Forrest Statue from Health Sciences Park was submitted under the 2013 Act, prior to the passage of the 2016 Act.  It was considered under the provisions of the 2013 Act, and was the only waiver application before the Commission to be considered under the 2013 Act. The Commission denied the petition October 13, 2017.

A majority vote of the THC is necessary to approve a waiver request submitted under the 2013 Act. A 2/3 vote of the THC is required under the 2016 Act.


Rulemaking Hearing Rule(s) Filing Form