Memphis — the city established on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and named after an ancient capital on the Nile delta — turns 200 this year.
In recognition of this bicentennial, here are 200 markers along the road of history that led to the present day.
The events cited range from the comic to the tragic, from the risible to the world-shaking, from the all-but-forgotten to the never-to-be-forgotten. But they barely scratch the surface of the rich, silty soil that enabled Memphis to become "the Hardwood Capital of America," to cite just one of the city's nicknames.
In other words, this is not a definitive Memphis timeline. With a few exceptions, it ignores music and sports (which will be celebrated by this newspaper later in the year with their own bicentennial tributes). You will have complaints about omissions. But we hope you will enjoy or appreciate the inclusions.
Future president Andrew Jackson (pictured), planter and judge John Overton and Revolutionary War officer James Winchester founded Memphis.(Photo: AP file photo)
1. May 22, 1819: Modern Memphis is founded by planter and judge John Overton, Revolutionary War officer James Winchester and future president Andrew Jackson, a year after the federal government purchased the territory from the Chickasaw Nation in negotiations partly led by Jackson. Planned as a grid of streets along the river, the city is named for a former great river town, the ancient capital of Egypt.
2. Progress was slow. "From its founding in 1819 until about 1840, Memphis was a primitive and pestilential little mudhole striving to survive as a town." — John E. Harkins, "Metropolis of the American Nile," 1982.
3. The city's founding came 270 years after the first Memphis-area encounter between American Indians and Europeans, led by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Both France and Spain would build forts on the "Chickasaw bluffs" in the 18th century.
4. Memphis' first grand jury indictment arrives in 1820, when Patrick Meagher is charged with two counts of assault and battery after indulging in too much "fire water" and brawling with bartenders. His fine: $2.
5. 1826: Encouraged by Memphis Mayor Marcus Winchester, Davy Crockett is elected to the U.S House of Representatives, representing Tennessee's 9th Congressional District — the seat (with very different boundaries) later held by Harold Ford and Steve Cohen.
6. Memphis' oldest noise ordinance, from 1827, prohibits "whooping, halloo-ing and swearing loudly," punishable by a $5 fine — or $10, if the offense occurs on a Sunday.
7. In Memphis, traffic problems predate automobiles: An 1837 law makes driving a horse-drawn conveyance "faster than a trot" punishable by a $10 fine.
8. April 21, 1841: Henry Van Pelt publishes the first issue of The Appeal. The paper later merges or buys out the Monitor, the Western Mercury and the Avalanche; in 1894, it is renamed The Commercial Appeal.
10. 1851: Nathan Bedford Forrest moves to Memphis and opens a slave trading company, one of a dozen in the city during the decade.
11. March 15, 1851: Memphians pay an astronomical $20 per ticket to see Jenny Lind, the so-called "Swedish Nightingale," perform at Odd Fellows Hall. Her manager for the tour: P.T. Barnum.
13. 1853: The first synagogue in Tennessee, B'nai Israel, is established by Jewish German immigrants. In 1943 it adopts its current name: Temple Israel.
14. July 15, 1853: Elmwood Cemetery opens for business, so to speak, when the late Mrs. R.B. Berry is laid to rest as its first occupant. The 75,000 interred since then have included slaves, suffragists, yellow fever victims and author Shelby Foote.
15. "May God bless Memphis, the noblest city on the face of the earth.” — Mark Twain, in an 1858 letter to his sister, after visiting the Memphis hospital where his brother Henry was taken after a steamboat explosion that took "hundreds of lives."
16. June 6, 1862: The Mississippi River churns as Union gunboats defeat Confederate naval forces at the first Battle of Memphis.
17. Also June 6, 1862: To avoid "Yankee" takeover, the presses and plates of the pro-Confederacy newspaper, The Appeal, are loaded into a boxcar and moved to Grenada, Mississippi, where the newspaper resumes publication. Keeping one step ahead of Union confiscators, The Appeal later journeys to Jackson, Mississippi; Meridian, Mississippi; Atlanta; Montgomery, Alabama; and Columbus, Georgia.
18. Aug. 21, 1864: Nathan Bedford Forrest's troops raid the Union-occupied city but ultimately withdraw; this incursion becomes known as the second Battle of Memphis.
19. Bright kid, promising future: In 1865, 18-year-old Thomas Edison works as a telegraph operator in Memphis.
The steamboat Sultana is shown in an April 26, 1865, file photo docked on the Mississippi River at Helena, Ark. About 1,800 people died when the boat exploded the following night near Marion, Ark.(Photo: AP Photo/Library of Congress file)
20. April 27, 1865: The greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history occurs on the Mississippi River at Memphis when the boilers of the overloaded Sultana explode. Close to 1,800 of the 2,400 people aboard the 260-foot wooden steamboat are killed or drowned (about 50 more than will be lost in the sinking of the Titanic). The boat's legal capacity was 376.
21. Forty-six black people and two white people are killed when white civilians and police officers rampage through black neighborhoods for two days of mob violence, May 1-3, 1866. The event becomes known as the "Memphis Massacre."
22. 1869: The foundation stone is laid for Beale Street Baptist Church (also known as First Baptist Church — Beale Street), a congregation organized by freed slaves.
23. The city's oldest degree-granting collegiate institution, Christian Brothers University, is established in 1871 (as Christian Brothers College) by members of a Catholic congregation founded by France's St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, the patron saint for "teachers of youth."
24. 1875: Walter Burke Sr. opens the original Burke's Book Store at 180 N Main. Now located at 936 Cooper, the store has remained independent and Memphis-owned ever since.
25. Jan. 15, 1877, becomes known as "The Day It Rained Snakes." According to newspaper reports that inspired an investigation by Scientific American, a "torrential downpour" left behind great numbers of snakes in the area of Vance and Lauderdale. The Monthly Weather Review reported the snakes were dark brown or black and "very thick in some places, being tangled together like a mass of thread or yarn." Whether the reptiles were driven from subterranean hiding places or deposited on the Bluff City via some sort of storm-driven snakenado remains a mystery.
26. Aug. 13, 1878: Restaurant owner Kate Bionda becomes the city's first recorded victim of yellow fever, having contracted the disease from a man who had escaped a quarantined steamboat. She would be followed by close to 5,000 others by the end of the year, as the epidemic devastates the city.
27. One of the most significant figures to ever call this city home, former slave Ida B. Wells moves to Memphis in 1882 at the age of 20. A few years later, she launches her anti-lynching campaign through her newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.
28. Wells makes an international reputation: "Miss Ida B. Wells is a negress, a young lady of little more than twenty years of age, a graceful, sweet-faced, intelligent, courageous girl. She hails from Memphis, Tenn. She is not going back there just now, because the white people are anxious to hang her up by the neck in the market place, and burn the soles of her feet, and gouge her beautiful dark eyes out with red-hot irons.'' — The London Sun, 1894.
29. An estimated 50 men, women and children, are killed on March 30, 1882, when a broken lantern causes a fire aboard the steamer Golden City, as the boat is about to dock. According to a newspaper account, the "howls of a burning menagerie ... mingled with shrieks of women and children."
30. 1887: Artesian well water becomes available for the first time, establishing Memphis as a city with notably pure drinking water.
31. On Oct. 15, 1887, Grover Cleveland becomes the first president to visit Memphis while in office. Thousands lined the streets (and were infiltrated by gangs of pickpockets, according to The Commercial Appeal), but the joy gives way to shock when a prominent local citizen, Judge Henry T. Ellett, grandly introduces the 24th president of the United States and then promptly drops dead on stage. The newspaper calls it “one of the saddest incidents that ever characterized a gala occasion," and offers this recounting: "Judge Ellett was placed upon the platform, his shoes removed, and all that mortal effort and medical science could suggest applied to bring resuscitation. It was useless, his spirit had fled."
32. A Memphis community designed expressly for black residents, Orange Mound — named for the area's many Osage orange trees — begins to be developed in 1890, on former plantation property. For much of its history, the neighborhood is said to represent the largest concentration of African Americans outside of Harlem.
33. Feb. 23, 1892: "Tomboy" Alice Mitchell, 19, uses her father's razor blade to cut the throat of her former Higbee School for Young Ladies classmate, Freda Ward, 17; the sensational murder trial that follows exposes what the one newspaper calls "the Perverted Affection of One Girl for Another." Alice — who apparently had dreamed of dressing as a man and marrying Freda — is sentenced to what was then called the Western State Hospital for the Insane in Bolivar, Tennessee.
34. The city's first public library, the Cossitt Library, opens on April 12, 1893. However, a public campaign for donations is necessary to stock its shelves with books.
36. A May 1901 reunion of Confederate troops ends with a parade of 15,000 veterans, according to The Commercial Appeal. "Never before in the history of Memphis were the people so enthused as they were yesterday," the newspaper reported, while also praising "the survivors of the most superb soldiery that ever bore a part in making world's history."
37. In about 1901, Natch the black bear — who over a century later would be weirdly reimagined as NBA mascot Grizz’s chief romantic rival — is put on display in Overton Park, stoking the public interest that results in the April 1906 founding of the Memphis Zoo. Natch, who lived chained to a tree, is poisoned by a bruincidal maniac in 1906; his head is removed, stuffed and put on display at the zoo, but reportedly is petted and hugged so often by the Natch-loving public that it literally falls to pieces.
38. Prohibition advocate Carrie Nation, notorious for attacking bars and taverns with her signature hatchet, makes the rounds of several Memphis saloons on Oct. 23, 1902. Although she "dashed to the floor a glass of liquor just as a thirsty person was turning it down his throat," according to The Commercial Appeal, she delivered tongue-lashings and temperance lectures instead of her so-called "hatchetations."
Roberta Church looks at paintings and plaques honoring her grandfather, Robert Church Sr. (top) and father, Robert Church Jr. (bottom) on June 3, 1976. Robert R. Church Sr., the South's first African-American millionaire, founded Church Park in 1899. Robert Church Jr. spearheaded the founding of the Memphis NAACP in 1917 and the Lincoln Republican League in 1916.(Photo: Robb Mitchell/The Commercial Appeal File)
39. 1906: One of Memphis' most influential citizens, Robert R. Church, known as the South's first African American millionaire, becomes founding president of Solvent Savings Banks, Memphis' first "black" bank, vital to the development of black-owned business.
40. Marion Scudder Griffin in 1907 becomes the first woman to be granted a license to practice law in Tennessee; then, in 1923, she is the first woman elected to the state legislature. She practices law in Memphis for 40 years.
41. The nation's largest Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God in Christ is organized by "disfellowshipped" black Baptist preachers and formally incorporated during a 1907 meeting in Memphis. The church's founding bishop is a Memphis advocate of Holy Ghost-inspired "speaking in tongues," Charles Harrison Mason.
43. Edward Hull Crump is elected mayor of Memphis in 1909. He serves only one full term but he nevertheless essentially runs the city until the mid-1950s, as was known throughout the nation. In 1946, he appears on the cover of Time, identified as "Memphis' Boss Crump."
44. The Memphis Zoo begins to establish its reputation as the "Hippo Capital" of America with the 1914 arrival of its first hippopotamuses, Venus and Adonis. Enthusiastic parents, the proud pachyderms produce 16 calves.
45. In 1914, the LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School — which traces its origins to a movement to provide education for free black people and runaway slaves — relocates to the Walker Avenue address where it remains, now greatly expanded and known as LeMoyne-Owen College.
48. Clarence Saunders, Part 1: A Virginia-born grocer who moved to Memphis in 1904, Saunders creates the self-service grocery store when the first Piggly Wiggly opens at 79 Jefferson Ave. on Sept. 11, 1916.
49. In December 1919, the city fire department auctions off its 37 horses to make way for motorized vehicles. The horses, according to newspaper accounts, have full names: Among the veteran hay-burners to find buyers are Charlie Fitz, Mike Haggerty and Mike Fitzmorris.
50. In 1923, The Commercial Appeal is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service for "the publication of cartoons and the handling of news in reference to the operations of the Ku Klux Klan.'' Leading the charge in the newspaper's battles with the Klan are editor C.P.J. Mooney and cartoonist J.P. Alley.
Tom Lee, hero of the Norman boat disaster on the Mississippi River, is photographed at his home on North Mansfield on Dec. 30, 1948.(Photo: Courtesy Mississippi Valley Collection/University of Memphis Libraries/Memphis Press-Scimitar)
51. May 8, 1925: Immortalized as "a very worthy Negro" on an obelisk in the park that bears his name, 39-year-old levee worker Tom Lee — who could not swim — makes four trips in his small skiff, the Zev, to rescue 32 of the 72 people in danger of drowning in the swift currents of the Mississippi after the 1925 sinking of the M.E. Norman, a steamboat. Lee's effort remains Memphis' most famous act of heroism.
52. "The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel," journalist David Cohn wrote in 1935. And that lobby has been at 149 Union Avenue since Sept. 1, 1925, when "The South's Grand Hotel" reopened at its second and still current location.
53. Founded in Clarksville in 1848 as the Masonic University of Tennessee, the school that in 1984 would become known as Rhodes College relocates to Memphis in 1925.
54. Operating out of a Midtown house on Poplar Avenue, infamous black market baby trafficker Georgia Tann makes millions selling thousands of infants from the 1920s until her death in 1950, which preceded the public revelation of her scam. Tann used pressure tactics and legal threats to dupe single mothers into giving up their babies, which she sold to wealthy or desperate couples through her "adoption" agency.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. dated June 1939. When the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog distribution and retail store at 495 N. Watkins in Memphis opened on Aug. 27, 1927, it was Sears's seventh distribution facility in the United States. The initial Memphis Midtown building had a total of 650,000 square feet of floor space, equal to 15 acres. It had more than 1,000 employees when it opened, and most of them worked in the catalog mail order operations. The Sears Crosstown building was expanded through a series of additions to 1.4 million square feet. A 1,000-car parking facility also was built. The catalog distribution center closed in 1990. The two-level retail store, which was the only Sears retail store in Memphis for more than two decades, closed in 1983. A Sears surplus store opened in late 1983 in a portion of the former space, but it closed in 1993. (The Commercial Appeal)(Photo: The Commercial Appeal)
55. Billed as one of the largest stores in the U.S., the Crosstown neighborhood Sears-Roebuck opens on Aug. 27, 1927, attracting a crowd of 2,000 before its art-deco doors are even unlocked. Closed and empty by 1993, the gargantuan building is re-imagined and redeveloped as the Crosstown Concourse "vertical village" of apartments and businesses, which has its grand opening Aug. 19, 2017.
56. 1927: Lloyd T. Binford is appointed head of the Memphis Censor Board; he reigns as America's most inflexible, eccentric and subjective censor until 1955, banning movies with Charlie Chaplin ("a London guttersnipe") and Ingrid Bergman (due to her "notorious adultery"), and penning the types of condemnations that transformed the targets of his ire into instant must-sees. Banning David O. Selznick's "Duel in the Sun" in 1947, Binford wrote: "It is sadism at its deepest level. It is the fleshpots of Pharaoh, modernized and filled to overflowing. It is a barbaric symphony of passion and hatred, spilling from a blood-tinted screen. It is mental and physical putrefaction."
57. Aviator Charles Lindbergh, 25, visits Memphis in October 1927, some five months after his solo flight across the Atlantic makes him one of the world's most celebrated men. Reports The Commercial Appeal: "A tousle-haired boy, slender and shy, weighted down with plaudits of nations and tired of it all, captured the heart of Memphis yesterday with a simple smile as his only weapon."
58. Welcome Wagon, a company that attempts to connect new homeowners with local stores and businesses, is launched by Memphis entrepreneur Thomas Briggs in 1928. Now a "direct marketing" company based in Coral Springs, Florida, Welcome Wagon in the days before TV and social media employed gift basket-bearing "hostesses" who made home visits.
59. "I left Memphis to spread the news/ Memphis women don't wear no shoes" — Furry Lewis, "Kassie Jones Part 2," 1928.
60. Filmed in and around Memphis in 1928, King Vidor's classic "Hallelujah" — the story of a sharecropper and a seductress — is one of the first major-studio films with an all-black cast. Released by MGM in 1929, the movie earned Vidor a Best Director Oscar nomination.
61. Clarence Saunders, Part 2: Now known as the Memphis Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium (or "Pink Palace," for short), the "Memphis Museum of Natural History and Industrial Arts" opened in 1930 in a Georgia pink marble mansion on Central Avenue that Saunders built in the 1920s. The city acquired the property after Saunders went bankrupt.
62. Insurance statistician Frederick L. Hoffman on March 20, 1930, issues a report declaring Memphis the murder capital of America, based on the 1929 homicide rate. Memphians object, pointing out that Chicago, for example, had hosted the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" that same year.
Future Farmers of America members Larry McCroskey, left, of Ward, Arkansas; David Beck of Eddyville, Kentucky; Barry Rinehart of Booneville, Mississippi; and John E. Townsend of Paris, Tennessee, stop to check out the ducks in the lobby fountain on their way to the Rotary Club at the Sheraton Peabody Hotel on Sept. 5, 1973.(Photo: Richard Gardner / The Commercial Appeal)
63. 1932: Duck decoys placed in the ornate Italian marble fountain of The Peabody prove so popular that the hotel institutes a tradition of live ducks in the lobby. Edward D. Pembroke becomes "duckmaster" in 1940 and keeps the job until 1991, ensuring that the chatty mallards — who waddle the elevator-to-fountain red carpet twice daily — remain Memphis' most popular runway models.
"I'll be out of this jail before long - they've got me, but keeping me is another thing", George "Machine Gun" Kelly told a Memphis Press-Scimitar reporter when he was cornered and captured in Memphis. Less than a week later on Sunday, October 1, 1933, "Machine Gun" did get out but only to be transported to the Memphis Airport for transport to Oklahoma City for his trial in the kidnapping of Charles F. Urschel, a wealthy oil executive of Oklahoma City.(Photo: Police handout / The Commercial Appeal)
64. The bootlegging and kidnapping gangster career of former Central High School student George "Machine Gun" Kelly comes to an end when the FBI's first Public Enemy No. 1 is arrested on Sept. 26, 1933, at 1408 Rayner. Also arrested: Kelly's "Titian-tressed" (to quote The Commercial Appeal) wife, Kathryn.
65. Ice Ice Baby: According to "Memphis: A Folk History," by Linton Weeks, the "first wedding between two people encased in ice'' occurs during the 1935 Cotton Carnival when a pair of circus performers — Freezo, the Human Polar Bear, and Ginger, the Guillotine Girl — are sealed in cakes of ice with microphones that allow them to broadcast "I-I-I d-d-d-do."
66. A globe-trotting Indiana Jones of the 1920s and '30s whose adventures spellbound millions of newspaper readers, Memphian Richard Halliburton (namesake of Halliburton Tower on the Rhodes College campus) disappears in 1939 while attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean in a Chinese junk.
67. 1934: Written by local political leader George Washington Lee, "Beale Street: Where the Blues Began" becomes the first book by a black author to be a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
68. 1937: The Goldsmith's department store on Main Street becomes one of the first major Memphis stores to adopt "all-the-year-round air-conditioning," in the form of an old-school refrigeration system installed by an ice company.
69. 1939: Memphis Light, Gas and Water is born after the city purchases a private electrical system, to augment its 37-years-earlier purchase of a private water delivery system.
Danny Thomas kisses the toe of St. Jude Thaddeus as Mrs. Thomas looks on during the formal opening of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital February 4, 1962. "This is the greatest day of my life," the television performer observed. "If I should die this minute, I would know why I was born." Some 9,000 people turned out for the opening. (Photo: The Commercial Appeal)
70. 1940: Struggling entertainer Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz — known professionally as Danny Thomas — enters a church in Detroit, falls to his knees, and prays "specifically" to St. Jude Thaddeus. "If he was supposed to be the saint of the hopeless, that certainly included me," Thomas wrote in his autobiography. "I blurted out those words, 'Help me to find my way in life, and I'll build you a shrine.'" Twenty-two years later, Thomas — by then a top TV and nightclub star — founds St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, which becomes the world's leading institute in the battle against childhood cancer.
71. The notorious "Goat Gland Doctor," John Romulus Brinkley, earns a fortune and international fame by transplanting the testicular glands of goats into the testicule sacs of men, to restore the recipient's "potency." Buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Brinkley lives much of his life in Memphis, but performs most of his quackery in Kansas; he is bankrupted by lawsuits a few years before his 1941 death.
72. Named by pilot Robert K. Morgan for his Memphis sweetheart, Margaret Polk, the Memphis Belle — a B17 "Flying Fortress" bomber — completes 25 combat missions from 1942 to 1943, becoming one of the most celebrated airplanes of World War II.
The Memphis Belle gets a bath and sprucing up on November 10, 1966, as it sits atop its pedestal in front of the National Guard Armory at the corner of Central and Hollywood.(Photo: James Shearin/The Commercial App)
73. WDIA AM-1070 begins broadcasting on June 7, 1947. After the success of Nat D. Williams' "Tan Town Jubilee" show aimed at black listeners in 1948, WDIA abandons country and pop and switches entirely to programming aimed at black audiences, hosted by black on-air personalities. It soon becomes Memphis' top radio station, with a staff of disc jockeys that includes B.B. King and Rufus Thomas.
74. A decade after TV came to New York, it arrives in Memphis when WMC — then co-owned by The Commercial Appeal — signs on the air on Dec. 11, 1948. After an hour of test patterns, dedications, political proclamations and backstage tours, the "entertainment" programming begins with Santa Claus, live on the air, reading letters from kids. WHBQ-TV Channel 13 followed in 1953, then WREC-TV (now WREG) Channel 3 in 1956.
Founder and chairman of the board Kemmons Wilson adds his name to a 12-by-25-foot card wishing Holiday Inns a happy 25th birthday on Sept. 8, 1977. More than 8,000 employees and their families' special guests were invited to a party at Libertyland to celebrate the event.(Photo: Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appe)
75. Memphis businessman Kemmons Wilson opens the first Holiday Inn — a single-story motor court — in August 1952, at 4925 Summer. The name is inspired by the title of the 1942 Bing Crosby movie that introduced the song "White Christmas." In 1965, the growing chain introduces a centralized reservation system, and by 1968 Wilson is operating 1,000 Holiday Inns across America. A 1972 Time magazine cover story labels Wilson "The Man with 300,000 Beds."
76. Broadcasting at "1,000 Beautiful Watts," radio station WHER AM-1430 — "The First All-Girl-Radio-Station in the World" — goes on the air in October 1955, from a South Third studio dubbed "The Doll Den," decorated with nylon stockings draped over clotheslines. The station is the creation of two of Memphis' most famed innovators: Sun founder Sam Phillips and Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson.
77. A mere satellite compared to the nuclear furnace of Sun, Cordell Jackson's Moon Records label in 1956 releases Jackson's double-sided holiday single, "Rock and Roll Christmas," backed by "Beboppers' Christmas." The latter song contains perhaps the most memorable introduction of St. Nick since Clement Moore's: "He had white fuzz all over his chin/ He came boppin' up and said, 'Give me some skin.'"
78. Reviewing Elvis' acting debut in "Love Me Tender" in 1956, an unimpressed Time magazine critic wrote: "Is it a sausage? It is certainly smooth and damp-looking, but who ever heard of a 172-pound sausage, 6 feet tall? Is it a Walt Disney goldfish? It has the same sort of big, soft beautiful eyes and curly lashes, but who ever heard of a goldfish with sideburns?"
79. Known for his black outfits, Bogart sneer and prowess with a bullwhip, movie cowboy Lash LaRue is arrested for buying and concealing stolen property — sewing machines — in connection with car thefts that occur while he is a "Wild West" performer at the 1956 Mid-South Fair. Acquitted of the charges, LaRue returns to Memphis frequently in the 1970s and '80s as a guest of the nostalgia-oriented Memphis Film Festival. Said one organizer: "Occasionally, when things would be a little bit dead in the dealers' room, he would break out the whip.''
80. A prime example of 1950s Polynesian exotica, the Luau restaurant opens at 3135 Poplar in February 1959. The Memphis Press-Scimitar lauded the establishment for its tiki statuary, war clubs, stuffed sharks and waterfall entrance, "with a banyan tree rising toward the roof, dotted with coral and giant clam shells."
81. Jan. 13, 1960: Striking a body blow against the establishment, professional wrestler Sputnik Monroe is arrested on a disorderly conduct charge for what an officer describes as the crime of "drinking in a negro cafe with negros," according to The Commercial Appeal. In what the judge said was "the first time he can recall that a white man was represented in City Court by a negro attorney," Sputnik's lawyer was Russell B. Sugarmon Jr., the future General Sessions judge. Sputnik was fined $26.
In February 1961, a parking lot was in the final stages of development at the former site of Russwood Park, which was destroyed by an Easter Sunday fire on April 17, 1960. Baptist Hospital stands on Madison Avenue in the background.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal files)
82. Easter Sunday 1960: In a dramatic blaze that old-timers still talk about, fire destroys Russwood Park, the mostly wooden ballpark built in 1896 at 916 Madison Ave. that was home to the Memphis Chicks minor league baseball team.
83. "I've never been to Chicago/ They say it's a mighty fine place/ I never could get past Tennessee with Mississippi all over my face" — Johnny Cash, "Going to Memphis," 1960.
The statue of W.C. Handy is surrounded by construction of a stage and seating area in Handy Park on Beale Street on May 10, 1982. The city launched the Beale Street Historic District in 1983 with $13.5 million in city, federal and private funds to recapture the glory of the world renowned street that is recognized as the home of the blues and the one-time center of black culture in Memphis.(Photo: Barney Sellers/The Commercial Appeal)
84. Sculpted by Leone Tommasi and cast in Florence, Italy (and not in Handy's hometown of Florence, Alabama), a bronze statue of W.C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues," is erected near Beale Street in 1960, two years after the Memphis composer's death.
85. "4 City Schools Are Integrated — Order Reigns." That's the front-page headline in The Commercial Appeal on Oct. 4, 1961, after 13 black first-graders are enrolled in four previously all-white elementary schools. Some 200 police officers are assigned to the schools for the week; but what broke out, according to the newspaper, was not trouble but games of Farmer-in-the-Dell and Drop-the-Handkerchief.
86. Hosted by "your monster of ceremonies," Sivad (Malco marketing maven Watson Davis), WHBQ-TV’s horror movie program “Fantastic Features” debuts on Sept 29, 1962, with “The Giant Behemoth” (1959), about a resurrected radioactive dinosaur that terrorizes London. Wildly successful, the show lasts 10 years, ending with the "Us"-anticipating “The Human Duplicators” (1962).
87. Its striking modern design by Memphis architect Roy Harrover now partially obscured by an ugly parking garage, the current Memphis International Airport terminal opens on June 7, 1963.
88. In perhaps the greatest convergence of talent since the Million Dollar Quartet, the 1963 Mid-South Fair brings the Three Stooges — Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe — and three of the Beverly Hillbillies — Granny (Irene Ryan), Jethro (Max Baer) and Elly May (Donna Douglas) — to Memphis for sold-out shows on consecutive days in the rodeo arena.
89. A beloved and seemingly ubiquitous harbinger of summer from the 1960s through the mid-1970s, the Memphis-born circular ice-cream delivery vehicle known as the "Merrymobile" roams the streets at a puttering 15 mph, making it easy prey for loose change-wielding, popsicle-craving urchins. During its late-1960s heyday, the Merrymobile company operates dozens of the iconic vehicles, which — with their striped canopy roofs — resemble circus tents or fairground carousels on wheels.
90. On Christmas Eve 1963, Memphis earns the distinction of being the coldest spot in the nation when the city records a temperature of 13 degrees below zero; this remains the record low for Memphis.
91. Killed in a Viet Cong ambush, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Alexander Gray is the first of an estimated 214 Memphis and Shelby County casualties of the Vietnam War. Gray is honored during a city ceremony on July 29, 1964.
Memphis Memorial Stadium, later to be named Liberty Bowl, rises out of the ground at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in 1964. It opened in 1965 at a cost of $3.7 million.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal files)
92. The $3.7-million city-built Memphis Memorial Stadium — later renamed Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium — opens in 1965 as the home football field for the Tigers (who previously played at Crump Stadium). The first rock band to play there is Three Dog Night, in 1972, with opening act Black Oak Arkansas; subsequent concert headliners include the Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Paul McCartney and U2.
93. Calling himself "Mr. Magic," WMC-TV Channel 5 "weather man" Dick Williams in 1965 debuts "Magicland," a weekly program for kids that showcases his talents as an illusionist and prestidigitator. The program ends in 1989 after some 1,200 episodes, making it TV's longest-running magic show, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
94. 1966: The city's first enclosed shopping mall, Southland Mall, opens on Shelby Drive in Whitehaven. It is followed by Raleigh Springs Mall (1971); the Mall of Memphis and Hickory Ridge Mall (both 1981); and Oak Court Mall (1988), among others.
95. According to the Memphis Press-Scimitar, the Beatles hope to begin recording tracks for their "Revolver" album at Stax on April 9, 1966, but the plans are scuttled due to security concerns.
96. Now the city's last remaining open-air cinema, Malco's ballyhooed two-screen Summer Drive-In opens on Sept. 1, 1966, with "23 Acres - No Dust, No Gravel or Mud" (according to newspaper advertisements). Opening night movies include "The Glass Bottom Boat," with Doris Day, and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini."
97. 1967: Inspired by Oakland's Black Panthers, young Memphis militants organize a "black power" group called the Invaders. The moniker is inspired by the ABC science-fiction series of the same name, which depicts the infiltration of America by humanoid aliens. Said Invaders leader Coby Smith: "The kind of things we were talking about were as alien to our communities as if somebody had brought in these ideas from outer space."
98. Legendary lawman Buford Pusser is rushed to Baptist Hospital here after being shot in McNairy County during an April 12, 1967, ambush in which his wife, Pauline, is killed. Pusser, the McNairy County sheriff known for his one-man campaign against moonshine, prostitution and illegal gambling, was the inspiration for the movie "Walking Tall." He survived the ambush but died in a 1974 car accident while returning home from a Memphis news conference where it was announced he would play himself in a sequel.
99. On Feb. 1, 1968, sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker are crushed to death in a garbage compactor while taking shelter from the rain. The deaths help inspire the strike that will bring Dr Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis.
The daily sanitation strike marches resumed March 29, 1968, one day after rioting left Main and Beale littered with bricks and broken glass and dappled with blood.(Photo: Barney Sellers / The Commercial Appeal)
100. Feb. 12, 1968: Some 1,375 city workers do not show up for their jobs, launching the sanitation strike.
101. Strike news took second place to weather news when a storm dropped 17.3 inches of snow — the second heaviest snowfall on record — on Memphis from March 21 to 23, 1968.
102. Mitchell High School student Larry Payne is fatally shot in the stomach by police officer Leslie Dean Jones on March 28, 1968, in the aftermath of a demonstration led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of striking sanitation workers. Witnesses say the youth was unarmed. Jones, 76, died March 15, 2019.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Mason Temple in Memphis on March 18, 1968.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal)
103. April 4, 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is shot and killed in Memphis — an event that the city and the nation have yet to fully reckon with.
104. After the King assassination, Time magazine in its April 12, 1968, issue refers to Memphis as a "Southern backwater" and "decaying Mississippi River town."
105. April 16, 1968: The city sanitation strike ends. Workers win union recognition and wage increases.
106. June 21, 1968: Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson visits Memphis to promote the opening of Mahalia Jackson Glori-Fried Chicken, a first restaurant in a fast-food franchise established by Memphians A.W. Willis and Benjamin L. Hooks in partnership with Jackson and the Minnie Pearl's Chicken franchise company. The union of white country and black gospel vocalists was intended to "set an example of racial partnership" in the wake of King's assassination, according to publicity, but both chains folded, in part because a major investor was financially embattled Tennessee gubernatorial candidate John Jay Hooker.
107. About a dozen Memphis and Shelby County library titles — including "Valley of the Dolls," "Myra Breckenridge" and "Portnoy's Complaint" — are placed off limits to readers under 18 in the summer of 1969 after Mayor Henry Loeb attended a library board meeting and "shooed all women out of the room and read aloud passages he had underlined in red ink" from "Portnoy," according to The Commercial Appeal. Asked one board member: "Is this book fit for women to read?" After the newspaper's story appears, demand for "Portnoy" increases so much that the library orders 10 extra copies to join the five already in circulation.
108. According to a report in The Commercial Appeal, Memphians on July 20, 1969, are so engrossed by the Apollo 11 moon landing that for a period of seven minutes water pressure rises so high from lack of usage that MLGW is forced to shut down all five main pumping stations.
109. Sept. 11, 1969: Memphis "spree killer" George Howard Putt, 59, is arrested after a month-long reign of terror in which he bludgeoned, strangled and stabbed five victims, male and female, between the ages of 21 and 80.
110. Hard to believe, but it is not until Nov. 25, 1969, that voters pass a special referendum allowing "liquor by the drink," meaning that adults could purchase alcoholic drinks at a restaurant rather than "brown-bagging" it by bringing their own bottles.
111. Visionary Memphis State University theater director Keith Kennedy courts controversy and causes a sensation in March 1970 by staging a student production of Broadway's Age-of-Aquarius "tribal love-rock" musical, "Hair" — the first licensed production outside New York. One compromise: In Memphis, no nudity.
112. May 21, 1970: Inspired by the new availability of liquor-by-the-drink, Memphis investors open the first Friday's restaurant and bar outside of New York, spurring what would become the Overton Square-centered nightlife explosion of the next two decades. (The location currently is occupied by Babalu, a Mexican restaurant.)
113. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Memphis is founded on June 20, 1970. Prior to that decision by Pope Paul VI, the entire state of Tennessee had been encompassed by the Diocese of Nashville.
114. 1971: Outraged by the use of nude models and an exhibition of nude photography at Memphis College of Art (then known as the Academy of Art), brick mason Newton C. Estes kidnaps the 14-year-old son of art instructor Richard Batey, in order to force the school to remove the offending pictures. College officials quickly comply, and the boy is released unharmed two hours later.
115. March 1971: In a victory for the citizens who organized to fight plans to extend Interstate 40 through Overton Park, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns decisions by district and appellate courts and rules that the federal Secretary of Transportation had failed to demonstrate the lack of “feasible and prudent” alternatives to the park route, as required by a 1966 highway bill intended to protect public spaces. The decision preserves the park.
Wrestler Sputnik Monroe is shown in an undated photograph. Monroe, whose wrestling career in Memphis stretched from the late '50s to the early '80s, was so popular among Memphis boys that many of them used peroxide to dye white streaks in their hair to match the one on their hero's forehead. The streak itself was said to have been caused by an injury during an early '50s match in Chicago, when Monroe was hit in the head with a chair.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal files)
116. June 7, 1971: After years in Ellis Auditorium, professional wrestling relocates to the Mid-South Coliseum, attracting 9,253 fans for opening-night matches showcasing such suplex superstars as Tojo Yamamoto, Bearcat Brown, the Fabulous Moolah, Len Rossi and Sputnik Monroe. Although the arena opened in 1963, "I probably am responsible for building this coliseum," Sputnik told The Commercial Appeal. "They didn't have room for me anywhere else to wrestle."
117. April 20, 1972: U.S. District Judge Robert McRae Jr. orders the Memphis Board of Education to implement a desegregation plan that will require the busing of an estimated 13,789 students during the following school year. The decision forever changes local education.
118. East Memphis' 34-story Clark Tower is completed in June 1972, adjacent to the 22-story White Station Tower (now the i-Bank Tower), which opened seven years earlier. The twin towers remain East Memphis anomalies.
Frederick W. Smith, president of Federal Express, in a photo from September 25, 1976.(Photo: CA files)
119. April 17, 1973: Fred Smith's Federal Express — now, FedEx — begins operations when 14 aircraft take off from Memphis to deliver 186 packages to 25 U.S cities, absolutely positively overnight.
120. June 4, 1973: The Park Commission ends the popular practice of staging commercial rock concerts in the Overton Park Shell after complaints about "criminal" behavior in the audience. According to the Memphis Press-Scimitar, crowds "at various times smoked marijuana, drank alcoholic beverages, took drugs and openly participated in love-making."
121. 1974: Harold Ford Sr. becomes the first black person elected to Congress in Tennessee. Other Fords who have held elective office include his brothers, John, Joe, Edmund and James; his sister, Ophelia; his uncle, Emmitt; and his son, Harold Jr., to name a few.
Foot traffic was treacherous as workers were transforming Main Street into the Mid-America Mall on June 17, 1975.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal)
122. The city completes construction of the Mid-America Mall on Main Street in 1975. The controversial pedestrian-mall project is intended to restore Downtown's luster, but longtime merchants complain that the elimination of street parking kills their business.
123. 1975: Through the coordination of Catholic Charities, refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos begin to resettle in Memphis in earnest, following the April "fall of Saigon."
124. In what comes to be regarded as a revolutionary moment in the history of photography, an exhibit of color work by William Eggleston goes on display on May 24, 1976, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, establishing the Memphis photographer as arguably the Bluff City's most influential artist outside the realm of music.
125. Nov. 23, 1976: A pistol-toting and inebriated Jerry Lee Lewis is arrested after pulling up to the gates of Graceland in a new Lincoln Continental and demanding to see Elvis. Mugshots show an injury to the singer's nose that apparently resulted from a rebounding champagne bottle that Jerry Lee had tried to hurl out a rolled-up window.
127. Jan. 15, 1977: Three months after hitting No. 1 with his novelty dance hit "Disco Duck," Memphis deejay Rick Dees — recording as "Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots" — releases a follow-up single, "Dis-Gorilla." Even an appearance on "The Brady Bunch Hour" that finds Dees introduced by the kids from "What's Happening!!" and performing in front of a pair of swinging King Kong arms couldn't lift the song above No. 56 on the Billboard pop charts.
128. The Memphis in May International Festival is organized in 1977. The first "honored country" is Japan.
Former President Gerald Ford, left, waves to the crowd after scoring a hole in one during the pro-am at Memphis, Tenn., June 8, 1977. With the president is entertainer Danny Thomas, after whom the tournament is named.(Photo: Jack Thornell, AP)
129. Out of office less than five months, former president Gerald Ford sinks a hole-in-one during the June 1977 pro-am portion of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic golf tournament at Colonial Country Club. (The shot made up for a past tournament, when one of Ford's errant balls beaned a spectator.)
Vernon Presley, Elvis' father, places a rose on his son's grave on Nov. 24, 1977, as the news media was permitted inside the grounds of Graceland for the first time since Elvis' funeral.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal)
131. A trio of apparent would-be grave robbers said to be plotting to burgle Elvis' body from Forest Hill Cemetery are arrested on Aug. 29, 1977, when one of them turns FBI informant. The thieves reportedly had planned to ransom the corpse for $10 million. Soon after, Presley's body is moved to Graceland.
132. Nov. 15, 1977: Memphis-based "Woolly Bully" creator Sam the Sham releases "The Wookie," a "Star Wars"-inspired would-be dance hit that celebrates Han Solo's furry sidekick, Chewbacca. Sample lyric: "Not too many things can bend him out of shape/ His mama must have come from the Planet of the Apes."
133. Hundreds of National Guardsmen are assigned to Memphis in the summer of 1978 after police officers and firefighters go on strike. On July 1, 1,400 firefighters walk off the job; that same day, 45 fires occur in four hours, inspiring a front-page editorial in The Commercial Appeal: "The rash of vandalism and harassment that accompanied the strike is contrary to the public image of Memphis firemen. It comes as an ugly shock." The next month, police also go on strike.
134. 1979: Adrian Rogers, senior pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, is elected to the first of the three terms he will serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. A charismatic and telegenic preacher, Rogers is a leader in the denomination's "conservative resurgence," which emphasizes a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
135. Known for pastel-colored playful postmodern furniture and ceramics, an internationally influential affiliation of Italian designers in 1980 dubs itself "The Memphis Group," in homage to the Bob Dylan song, "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."
137. After Mayor Wyeth Chandler resigns from office in 1982 to accept a Circuit Court judgeship, City Council member J.O. Patterson Jr. is named interim mayor — making him the city's first black mayor. (W.W. Herenton does not become the first elected black mayor until 10 years later.)
138. Graceland opens to the public on July 7, 1982 — less than five years after Elvis' death. It is now the second most-visited home in the U.S., after the White House.
139. Distraught over the death of his 8-year-old son, who had been treated for leukemia at the hospital, a marijuana-smoking and .357 Magnum-wielding French-Canadian, John Claude Goulet, 40, takes a pediatrician, a nurse, a psychiatrist and a psychologist hostage inside an office at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The 34-hour siege ends when police storm the office and kill Goulet on Feb. 5, 1982.
140. St. Agnes student Leslie Marie Gattas, 15, is rescued March 18, 1982, from an attic hideaway at Christ United Methodist Church, where her kidnapper, Ernest Stubblefield, had kept her for 119 days.
Comic performance artist Andy Kaufman during a bout with Jerry Lawler at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis April 5, 1982.(Photo: (By Thomas Busler / The Commercial Appeal))
141. April 5, 1982: Wrestler Jerry Lawler "injures" comedian/wrestler Andy Kaufman with a "piledriver" move at the Mid-South Coliseum, a highlight of a still much talked-about feud that reaches its apex in July when Lawler slaps Kaufman's face on "Late Night with David Letterman."
142. January 1983: The "Shannon Street" tragedy leaves seven suspects dead after police storm a North Memphis house and kill all occupants, following the torture death of a police officer, Robert S. Hester, 34, who had been held hostage in the house.
143. The city's daily evening newspaper, the distinctively named Memphis Press-Scimitar, publishes its final edition on Halloween 1983. The paper had operated as the Press-Scimitar since the 1926 merger of two competing evening dailies, The News Scimitar and the Memphis Press.
144. Memphis State University football coach Rex Dockery, 41, and three others — freshman defensive back Charles Greenhill, offensive coordinator Chris Faros and booster Glenn Jones — are killed Dec. 12, 1983, in a small plane crash while en route to a speaking engagement in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.
145. Organized by a coalition of bar owners, restaurateurs and devotees of blarney that calls itself "Irish Eyes of Memphis," the St. Patrick's Day "pub crawl" reaches its bacchanalian height (or depth) in 1982, when an estimated 50,000 revelers stagger from Main Street to Overton Square in search of green-dyed beer. Legal fees and other complications eventually reduce the event to its current manageable form, a parade on Beale.
Michael Macnamara of Seattle tosses his nephew Justin Goff, 7, of West Memphis during an outing at Mud Island's Bud Boogie Beach on Aug. 26, 1990.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal file)
146. 1982: The Mud Island river park opens to the public, complete with concert amphitheater and monorail transportation between the park and the "mainland." Its most impressive aspect may be its "Riverwalk," a scale reproduction of the 954 miles of the lower Mississippi River, with "every sandbar, oxbow, and topographic contour faithfully reproduced in cement," according to Roadside America. Starting at "Cairo, Illinois," the Riverwalk ends at a "Gulf of Mexico" that for several embarrassing years was rebranded as a Budweiser-sponsored water park named "Bud Boogie Beach."
147. When the New York Metropolitan Opera brings a touring performance of "Macbeth" that features a topless witch to the Auditorium North Hall on May 10, 1983, a group calling itself MASH — Memphians Against Social Harassment — stage a "strip-in" to protest the unequal enforcement of the city's anti-nudity ordinance. When the witch appears onstage, MASH members in the audience — mostly dancers at "adult" nightclubs — remove their tops. The ordinance later is declared unconstitutional.
148. "Memphis — A Diamond in the Bluff'" is the winning entry in a 1983 contest to pick a slogan for Memphis, sponsored by The Commercial Appeal and the Rotary Club. Newspaper stories promise that the coinage "will soon grace billboards, newspaper advertisements and possibly airwaves." Memphis boosters are asked to use the phrase as often as possible. It is never heard of again.
149. Oct. 30, 1983: Founded in 1901, Bellevue Baptist Church votes to leave its longtime Midtown location and relocate to a Cordova campus, where it expands to "megachurch" proportions.
150. "While most of us were stuffing ourselves with turkey," The Commercial Appeal reports on Nov. 25, 1983, "a pair of armed, Halloween-masked gunmen pulled off the largest robbery in Memphis history, stealing an estimated $2 million from the Wells Fargo building on Monroe."
Entertainer Mitzi Gaynor visits The Orpheum on March 1, 1984, to give a talk to the local United Way. She opens at the newly renovated theater the next night for a three-day run.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal files)
151. Jan. 7, 1984: Restored to its former glory, The Orpheum — Main Street's historic "palace" of a theater — reopens with a public "Champagne and Gershwin" party. A harbinger of Downtown's revival, the theater was built in 1928, on the site of the Grand Opera House, which had burned to the ground in 1923.
152. The bizarre and "epic" (in the characterization of The Commercial Appeal) Georgian Hills Day Care child sex abuse scandal dominates much of the news from 1984 to 1988 and results in the indictments of four adult workers in connection with the alleged molestations of at least 19 children. Eventually, all charges are dropped and the one conviction overturned, due in part to the implausibility of much of the testimony of the child witnesses (one boy said child victims were "baptized to the devil"). The investigation is now regarded as a textbook case of 1980s "satanic panic."
153. Sept. 5, 1986: In a predecessor to the current "Mighty Lights" display, the "M"-shaped structure of the Hernando de Soto Bridge (still referred to as "the new bridge," if you're old) is illuminated with 200 sodium lights, following a fundraising campaign by fashion designer Pat Kerr Tigrett and developer Henry Turley.
154. "After we moved to Memphis, I don't recall Mother's ever once saying: 'A gentleman must always' do so and so. Or: 'A lady will never' do so and so ... The old delicate balance between her wild nature and her strict Presbyterian, genteel upbringing was gone in Memphis ... When we were all in the doldrums, she more than once said: 'I sometimes think a shooting in the family would have been better than a move to Memphis.'" — Peter Taylor, "A Summons to Memphis," which wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987.
155. 1988: Michael Hooks becomes the first black candidate elected to countywide office when he wins the race for assessor.
156. 1989: Self-promoting promoter Sidney Shlenker makes a deal to take over Mud Island, announcing plans to convert the river park to a $100 million entertainment complex called "Rakapolis," a name intended to suggest ancient Egypt and modern rock 'n' roll. Rakapolis was to come complete with a huge crystal sphinx, a "time machine" ride and a re-created Egyptian village. Shlenker — who already had the contract to manage the then-under-construction Pyramid arena — predicts 3 million visitors a year. For some reason, people believe him. Eventually, local government has to sue to regain control of the attractions.
157. Commodities trader Charles D. McVean invests about $8 million into the development of a new type of "horse" racing: indoor Hackney pony races with remote-controlled robots for jockeys, the reins attached to the robots' tiny metal arms. "You put 10,000 people in here with a six-pack of beer apiece, and then by God you've got something!" McVean told the Wall Street Journal, during a test run at the Fairgrounds in 1989. The state Racing Commission rejects the idea.
158. Memphians are all shook up when the news media hypes "self-proclaimed climatologist" Dr. Iben Browning's prediction that a major earthquake will rock the New Madrid Fault on Dec. 3, 1990. When the much-feared date arrives, Memphis fails to shake, rattle, or even roll, at least tectonically.
159. Writing in his book "Rythm Oil" in 1991, Stanley Booth sticks up for the Bluff City when confronted by skeptics: "I told them that in this century, Memphis, Tennessee, had changed the lives of more people than any other city in the world. I used, I regret to report, the phrase 'cultural influence' ... I never had a chance to tell them that, like it or not, they had shopped at supermarkets, eaten at drive-in restaurants, slept in Holiday Inns, and heard the blues because people in Memphis had found ways to convert these things into groceries."
Clinton Burrows Sr., a former sanitation worker involved in the 1968 strike that brought Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, tours the National Civil Rights Museum at a pre-opening tour for sanitation workers and museum supporters on Sept. 28, 1991.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal file photo)
160. July 4, 1991: Constructed around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum is dedicated. It opens to the public in September 1991.
161. Oct. 4, 1991: Former city schools superintendent W.W. Herenton is elected mayor, defeating incumbent Dick Hackett by 172 votes out of about 250,000 cast. (Proving joke candidates can make a difference, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, who claimed to be a resident of a planet named Zambodia, received 2,921 votes.) The city's first elected black mayor, Herenton will be elected to five terms; he resigns in 2009 to pursue an unsuccessful bid for Congress.
162. Memphis' distinctive Pyramid arena opens with a concert on Nov. 9, 1991. The headliners? The mother-and-daughter country act, the Judds.
163. On Nov. 16, 1991, patrons burst like scalded cats from the doors of the Madison Avenue punk club, the Antenna, when shock rocker GG Allin lived up to his reputation and began flinging his own feces into the crowd. The cover charge: $5.
164. "They left Chickasaw Gardens and drove west with the traffic toward downtown, into the fading sun ... The warm, sticky, humid Memphis summer air settled in with the dark. Softball fields came to life as teams of fat men with tight polyester pants and lime-green and fluorescent-yellow shirts laid chalk lines and prepared to do battle. Cars full of teenagers crowded into fast-food joints to drink beer and gossip and check out the opposite sex." — John Grisham, "The Firm," 1991.
President George H.W. Bush addresses a rain-drenched crowd at 495 Union Avenue on 23 Nov 1989. Lionel Linder, Editor of The Commercial Appeal, is at right.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal)
165. Lionel Linder, 60, editor of The Commercial Appeal since 1988, is killed in a 1992 New Year's Eve accident on Union Avenue when a drunk driver plows into his car. Linder spearheaded the campaign to bring President George H.W. Bush to Memphis in 1989 for an event on the newspaper's lawn, where Bush designated The CA as the first "Point of Light" in a program honoring the nation's volunteers.
166. "In his prime, he was one of the three greatest jazz pianists of all time," wrote critic Leonard Feather. He was Phineas Newborn Jr., whose classic albums include "A World of Piano!" (1961) and "The Newborn Touch" (1964). He is found dead of natural causes at his Memphis home on May 26, 1989, at the age of 57.
167. 1992: "Several visitors to a zoo exhibit called 'Dinosaurs Live!' asked for refunds after discovering that dinosaurs ceased to roam the Earth 65 million years ago," the newspaper reports, in a story about zoo patrons who expected to find real live dinosaurs when they attended an exhibit that actually featured motorized mechanical replica dinosaurs. "People have watched too much Fred Flintstone," says zoo vice president Ann Ball.
168. Artist Carroll Cloar, 79, who had been suffering from cancer, dies of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 10, 1993. In The Commercial Appeal, critic Fredric Koeppel writes that the Arkansas-born Cloar "drew on memories of rural life to compose canvases whose realism was tempered with touches of whimsy, folklore and mystery." Many of Cloar's paintings are on display at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
169. Feb. 11, 1994: Memphians wake to the warzone-like cracks of explosive timber after the region is blanketed by a devastating ice storm that snaps trees — at least one person is killed by a falling limb — and cuts power to close to 425,000 MLGW customers, some of whom are without electricity for 17 days.
170. On April 7, 1994, the crew of a Federal Express DC10 flight leaving Memphis overpowers a hammer-wielding company employee and safely lands the plane after a hijacking-suicide attempt by Auburn Calloway, 42, a pilot facing termination for falsifying his job application. Calloway is sentenced to life terms for attempted murder and attempted air piracy; he said he planned to crash the aircraft so his family could collect his $2.5 million life insurance policy.
171. On July 1, 1994, Memphis State University becomes the University of Memphis — the fifth name change since its founding in 1912 as the West Tennessee Normal School.
172. Longtime WHBQ-TV kiddie-show host and toy store impresario Harold "Happy Hal" Miller, 74, dies on Nov. 28, 1997. From the 1950s to 1973, Miller was Memphis' answer to "Captain Kangaroo"; his hand-puppet sidekick was the blue-hued and taxonomically indeterminate "Lil' Bow," described by Miller in a 1988 interview as a bow-tie-wearing "cross between a mouse and a chipmunk-type thing."
173. In 1998, University of Memphis student Kelly Chandler hangs a sheet on the wall of The Edge coffee shop in Cooper-Young and hosts a group of local filmmakers, who project their work on the sheet. This is the humble origin of what is now the region's largest film event, the Indie Memphis Film Festival.
174. Downtown's gem of a baseball diamond, AutoZone Park, opens on April 1, 2000, with an exhibition game between the Memphis Redbirds and the St. Louis Cardinals. Columnist Geoff Calkins calls it "the first day of the rest of our baseball lives."
175. 2001: A community gathering place and headquarters for the Memphis Public Libraries system, the new five-story $70 million "main library" opens at 3030 Poplar, replacing the old central library at Peabody and McLean. It is renamed the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in 2005.
176. Ben Affleck, Michael Jordan and Donald Trump are among the 15,327 who reportedly attend the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis heavyweight boxing match at the Pyramid on June 8, 2002. Lewis knocks out Tyson in the 8th round in what at the time was the highest-grossing event in pay-per-view history.
177. In 2002, former Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton is elected the first black mayor of Shelby County. In 2009, he is elected the 63rd mayor of Memphis, but he loses his 2015 re-election bid to Jim Strickland.
178. During Elvis Week 2002, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, then at the height of his leonine majesty, sits atop the base of a large upwardly tilted silver "rocket" ship during the Elvis Beale Street parade. The suggestion that this man is the literal father of rock 'n' roll is hard to miss.
179. Nicknamed "Hurricane Elvis," the most damaging wind storm in Memphis history strikes on July 22, 2003, toppling trees and telephone poles, cutting service to 340,000 homes and businesses, and introducing Memphians to the term "derecho," which refers to a type of devastating straight-line wind.
FedExForum is pictured on July 29, 2004, from the 15th floor of Peabody Place Tower. The building is nearly ready for opening day.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal files)
180. After some five years of planning, the $250 million FedExForum opens to the public with a Sept. 6, 2004, "open house."
181. His fur was brown and shaggy, his belly was round and saggy: A slobby Everybear, the original version of Grizz, the Memphis Grizzlies mascot, is retired for the current blue-furred Superbear when the team moves from the Pyramid to FedExForum in 2004.
Actor Terrence Howard receives lots of love from his fans at the premier of "Hustle & Flow" in Memphis.(Photo: Justin Shaw)
182. A movie about a North Memphis hustler who "dares to dream the pimpossible dream" (to quote Time magazine), Craig Brewer's future Oscar-winner "Hustle & Flow" has its Memphis premiere at the now vanished Muvico Peabody Place 22 on July 6, 2005. Police report that some 6,000 "well-behaved" fans crowd the red carpet to see such celebrities as Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson; producer John Singleton; members of Three 6 Mafia; Brewer (“resplendent” in a Girbaud denim suit, gold Versace sunglasses, straw cowboy hat and a 3-carat diamond ring that had belonged to Sam Phillips); and — incongruously — martial-arts star Steven Seagal.
183. In a spectacular blast that attracts hundreds of spectators, the 50-year-old Baptist Memorial Hospital on Union Avenue — where Elvis was declared dead, among other historic happenstances — is razed at 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2005, by the controlled detonations of 600 pounds of explosives placed on six of the building's 21 stories.
184. March 5, 2006: Thirty-four years after Stax legend Isaac Hayes earned an Oscar in the same category for "Theme from Shaft," Memphis hip-hop artists Jordan Houston (Juicy J), Paul Beauregard (DJ Paul) and Cedric Coleman (Frayser Boy) win the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," their contribution to writer-director Craig Brewer's made-in-Memphis "Hustle & Flow."
185. Graceland is known for celebrity visitors, but on July 1, 2006, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visits Elvis' home in the company of President George W. Bush. "Hold me close, hold me tight," sang Koizumi, as he put his arm around Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
186. An off-course manatee appears on Oct. 24, 2006, in Wolf River Harbor, some 720 miles north of its usual coastal habitat. Reports of the marine mammal's meanderings transfixed Memphians for several days, but the docile creature eluded capture and came to a sad end: It was found dead in December in McKellar Lake.
187. Farewell to the Ape Girl, water-skiing squirrels and a life-sized Dolly Parton sculpted from butter: The last Mid-South Fair at the old Fairgrounds is held in 2008.
188. A second printing of more than 40,000 copies quickly disappears as Memphians descend on The Commercial Appeal offices on Nov. 5, 2008, seeking souvenir editions of the newspaper that reported Barack Obama's presidential victory with a front-page headline that proclaimed "Yes He Did" — a play on the Obama campaign slogan, "Yes We Can."
The Dalai Lama was greeted with a fist bump from Myron Lowery and smiles from A C Wharton on Sept. 22, 2009, on the banks of the Mississippi.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal file)
189. Sept. 22, 2009: Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery greets the Dalai Lama with a fist bump and the comment: "I've always wanted to say, 'Hello, Dalai!'"
190. Crews in January 2010, dismantle Elvis' favorite roller coaster, the 80-year-old Zippin Pippin, marking a definitive end to decades of amusement park rides at the Fairgrounds. The nerve-wrackingly rickety old-school wooden roller coaster is re-created at the Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
191. April 9, 2011: Funeral services are held for former University of Memphis basketball player and coach Larry Finch, 60, arguably the most significant sports figure in local history. Finch led Memphis State to the 1973 NCAA title game against victorious UCLA that — however briefly — united the city.
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid customers Tandra Strong (right) takes pictures with daughter, Rakelle Strong, as they take in the 535,000-square-foot outdoor lovers' paradise during a grand opening celebration on April 29, 2015.(Photo: The Commercial Appeal file)
192. After a decade of planning, Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid opens to the public on April 29, 2015, bringing camo boots, duck decoys and live gators to the 14-year-old pyramid-shaped arena that had hosted the Tigers, Grizzlies, Bruce Springsteen and Prince.
193. May 23, 2015: The Memphis in May Sunset Symphony ends its 39-year annual run at Tom Lee Park. The event was perhaps best known for its 17 years of “Ol' Man River,” the "Showboat" tune that was a centerpiece of the symphony until the 1998 retirement of James Hyter, the sonorous-voiced singer who each year led thousands of riverside revelers in multiple singalong encores.
194. In association with nationwide actions organized by Black Lives Matter in response to the police killings of black civilians, almost a thousand protesters shut down the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River for close to four hours on July 10, 2016.
Workers prepare to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from Health Sciences Park on Dec. 20, 2017(Photo: Yalonda M. James / The Commercial Appeal)
195. Statues of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate president Jefferson Davis are removed from city parks on Dec. 20, 2017, following some political sleight of hand in which the city outfoxes statue advocates in the state legislature by selling the two parks to nonprofit Memphis Greenspace for $1,000 each.
196. According to city records, there currently are about 9,850 street names in Memphis, including Saint Nick Drive and North Pole Cove; Elvis Presley Boulevard and Elvis Cove; Danny Thomas Boulevard and Uncle Remus Road; Nottingham Place, Maid Marian Lane, Friar Tuck Road, Robin Hood Lane and Zorro Cove; Nightingale Drive, Parrot Cove, Parakeet Road and Mockingbird Lane; Panda Lane, Otter Drive and Doberman Cove; and, perplexingly, Sea Shore Road.
197. Long distance information, give me Memphis, Missouri: Memphis, Tennessee, population 646,889 (according to the 2010 Census), may be the biggest Memphis in the United States, but it isn't the only one. Some others include Memphis, Florida, pop. 7,848; Memphis, Texas, 2,290; Memphis, Missouri, 1,822; Memphis, Nebraska, 114; Memphis, Mississippi, 70; and Memphis, Alabama, which, according to a 2017 estimate, has 28 residents.
198. Feb. 2, 2019: The Tom Lee Park Engagement Center at Beale Street Landing opens, to give Memphians a chance to view a proposed redesign that would radically transform the popular Mississippi River-front park.
199. In recognition of this year's 150th anniversary of The Peabody, chefs at Chez Philippe created a $150 burger. The patty is between a brioche bun, and is accessorized with butter-poached lobster, caramelized onion, Saint-André cheese, huckleberry aioli and Parmesan black truffle fries.
200. Meanwhile, the 67-year-old Tops Bar-B-Q chain gets new owners, a partnership group announces April 2. A Tops burger costs $3.95 (or $4.25, with cheese).
Special thanks to former Shelby County Historian Jimmy Ogle; G. Wayne Dowdy, archivist at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library: wrestling scholar Mark James (MarkJamesBooks.com); and Corinne Kennedy and Micaela Watts of The Commercial Appeal.
From the all-but-forgotten to the never-to-be-forgotten, here are 200 markers along Memphis' road of history that leads to present day.
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