Day two in Memphis started with a roughly 10 minute drive to Graceland. I didn't do the "house tour", but I visited the family burial site on the grounds in "Meditation Garden". The site includes Elvis' grandmother Minnie Mae, father Vernon, mother Gladys and Elvis himself. I stayed there for roughly 20 minutes...enough to soak in the garden and get a peak of the Graceland mansion. My next stop was over on McLemore Avenue to visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Stax Music Academy. If you're old school like I am, you know that Stax Records was home to artists like Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers and The Bar-Kays, just to name a few. Next up was LeMoyne-Owen College, a fully accredited, four-year private historically black college affiliated with the United Church of Christ. LeMoyne–Owen College was formed through the 1968 merger of LeMoyne College and Owen College...both private, historically black, church-affiliated colleges. Notable alumni were former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Benjamin Hooks, former executive director of the NAACP.
On my way to the next location, I was feeling kind of numb and nostalgic at the same time. How will I react? How will I respond? Will I cry or not? Pulling into the parking lot of 450 Mulberry Street was surreal at best. I learned about this place in school as a youngster, and I saw this place on the news many times as that same youngster. But did I ever think I would be here? No! I step out the car, walk a few feet and there it is...that tall, bright red, yellow and blue Lorraine Motel sign. I stared at that sign for so long, people probably thought I was crazy or something. But no, many of them were doing the exact same thing. Then I walk past the long row of rooms and look up at a red, white and blue wreath on the balcony in front of Room 306. Wow, that's the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood moments before he was assassinated! Then, we were told to look across the street. There is a building (Legacy Building that was once a boarding house) with a darkened window. History says that is the window where the fatal shot was fired on that April 4, 1968 day. I stood there stunned. I looked up at Room 306 again, and then looked across the street again. (silence) The Lorraine Motel is now called the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. I was very happy to be here. Sad, but happy at the same time. I enter the museum to begin my self-guided tour. There were many exhibits that caught my eye. The ones I highlighted here in photos are: ”A Culture Of resistance: Slavery In America 1619-1861", which featured a mock slave ship. "The Year They Walked: Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-1956". "Standing Up By Sitting Down: Student Sit-Ins 1960", which showcased a "whites-only" cafe. "We Are Prepared To Die: The Freedom Rides 1961", which features a burned out Greyhound bus. "Letter From Birmingham Jail 1963", which has a jail cell with Dr. King's audio, and the words flash on the cell wall. "For Jobs and Freedom: March On Washington 1963", which has 3 figures holding protest signs with a photo from the actual march behind them. "Selma, Alabama: Bloody Sunday", which has a replica of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and movie footage from that fatal day. "What Do We Want? Black Power", dedicated to the Black Panthers. "I Am A Man: Memphis Sanitation Strike 1968", which has the original garbage truck. "King's Last Hours: Rooms 306 and 307". Dr. King had two rooms, 306 and 307. Both rooms are showcased, but the main focus is on Room 306, which was Dr. King's room. I was told that the room was left in the way it was when Dr. King was killed. It was kind of hard to view the whole room because of the reflection off the window to my left. But you're still able to see right into the room. That made things kind of eerie, especially because I just happened to look up and realized I was right near the balcony where Dr. King stood. So I took the photo as if I'm standing there, and at the same time framing the boarding house across the street to show where the shot was fired from. That was chilling indeed!
Heading back to the car to continue my day, next up was a drive to the University of Memphis. I made my way over to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium where the Memphis Tigers football team plays to photograph the stadium. Other stops after that were the Blues Hall of Fame and Orpheum Theatre. I then headed over to Beale Street for some much needed lunch. On the way there, I see Andrea Holmes Lugar's Elvis Presley statue on the side of the Memphis Light Gas and Water building. Walking past the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and Hard Rock Cafe, I stop at B.B. King's Blues Club for lunch. After lunch, I walk up and down Beale Street to get the feel of it. At the corner was the facade of the Gallina Exchange Building. Years ago, a fire burned out the back of the building, but the facade was saved and is now being held up by steel beams. The restaurants converted the back of the building into outdoor cafes. From there, I walk past Handy Park, where a statue of W.C. Handy is at the entrance into the park. Across from the Rufus Thomas Boulevard sign, I see Jerry Lee Lewis' Cafe and Honky Tonk. Down the street from there is the Coyote Ugly Saloon, the old Daisy Theatre and the Memphis Police Department Entertainment District Unit. Just in back of the Police Department is the W.C. Handy Home and Museum. And to my surprise, across the street is the Sweetie Pie's restaurant building that they were going to open up here on Beale Street. I don't know what happened, but the building has been sitting vacant for about two years. Leaving Beale Street, I went over to the old Memphis Firehaus Downtown Beer Garden. It sits vacant now, but the building has landmark status. Next was the Rock N Soul Museum, Gibson Guitar factory and Fed Ex Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team. From there, I drove to the Riverfront to look for David Allan Clark's Tom Lee Memorial in Tom Lee Park. Tom Lee became a national celebrity in 1925, when he pulled more than 30 people from the swirling waters of the Mississippi River after the steamer M.E. Norman overturned near Memphis. Today, his brave deeds are largely forgotten, but brought to mind when visitors pause to admire the new monument...erected in the riverfront park named after him. The reason Tom's story is so awesome is because he NEVER learned to swim. Further up Riverside Drive is Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. It was originally supposed to be the home for the University of Memphis men's basketball team, and later the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. Next up was Vito Acconci's "Roof Like Fluid Flung Over The Plaza" sculpture outside the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. And through that sculpture, I captured a nice photo of the Hernando De Soto bridge. Later, while walking along the Main Street Mall, I saw two Memphis banners worthy of photographing. Next was the Fire Museum of Memphis, with a cool, vintage fire truck outside. AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds was my last photo for a few minutes. I went over to the Peabody Hotel to witness the Peabody ducks do their the red carpet walk. In a custom dating back to the 1930's, every day at 11:00am and 5:00pm, the Peabody Ducks are escorted from their penthouse home on the Plantation Roof, to the lobby via elevator. The ducks, accompanied by the King Cotton March by John Philip Sousa, make their way out of the lobby fountain, then proceed across the red carpet where flash bulbs and cheers greet them. Then they walk to the elevator back up to their penthouse. I didn't photograph the ceremony, but have great video!
After leaving The Peabody, I saw a few paintings by George Hunt that I admired and photographed. Walking back to the hotel, I photograph Memphis Music and Tapes, Bank Of Tennessee, the historic and landmark Tennessee Club, which dates back to 1906. I walked past the Judge D'Army Bailey Courthouse, and photographed a sheriff's car out front. Around the corner from the courthouse is the Shelby County Justice Center, seen often on the television show "First 48". Finally I arrived back at the Sheraton...time to eat and edit lots of photos!