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VOL. 131 | NO. 247 | Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: New Rhodes President, Billy Hyman and the Fast Track

By Bill Dries

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The biggest political betting pool of the post-election season ends Tuesday as President elect Donald Trump said Monday by Twitter that he would name his nominee for Secretary of State Tuesday morning.

Our interest locally is that U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is among those under consideration for the job. And if he is Trump’s choice, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will be filling the Senate vacancy through the 2018 elections, when Corker’s six-year term of office ends. And the Senate will be looking for a new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker’s latest on-record reaction to the continued speculation about all of this came Saturday when the rumors were ripe that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was Trump’s choice.

“If it is Rex Tillerson, he is a very impressive individual,” Corker tweeted.

The Tillerson rumors were back again Monday evening with AP quoting sources saying it will be  Tillerson.

Rhodes College names its 20th president and Marjorie Hass is expected to continue much of the push made by current president Bill Troutt over the last 18 years – that is opening the borders of the Midtown liberal arts college in terms of student involvement. Hass comes to the city from being president of Austin College in Texas. She has also been chairwoman of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which includes liberal arts colleges like Rhodes and Austin. She starts July 1.

The streets in the Memphis Medical District are changing this fall … and we don’t mean the leaves on some of the tree-lined streets. Bicycle lanes and enhanced pedestrian crossing are just a part of the changes designed to emphasize that the district is more than a place traffic goes through. It’s where a significant number of Memphians work and go to school every day. This is an overview of the ideas behind some of the changes we’ve reported on recently including the story about the Triangle Park at Monroe and Madison we mentioned here on Monday.

Billy Hyman was one of the original 13 charter members of the Memphis City Council when the city went to a mayor-council form of government taking office in 1968 following the elections of 1967. He died Monday at the age of 90, 29 years after he opted not to seek re-election to the council for one more term.

Hyman, a business owner known for the South Memphis lumber yard and building supply company he owned, served on the council for 20 years.

Hyman got into the lumber business in the mid 1950s and by the 1967 city elections for the new form of government, he was one of several Main Street-type business owners getting involved in politics. It was Hyman’s perspective as a hands-on show-up-for-work-every-day business owner that he applied to politics. He served with three mayors: Henry Loeb, Wyeth Chandler and Dick Hackett. And his philosophy was that the council shouldn’t micro-manage the mayor’s decisions. Their role was a broader oversight when necessary by his judgment.

Much of Hyman’s business was in the heart of black south Memphis and that business had long been on both sides of the color line when racial segregation was law in Memphis.

Six weeks after he and the other council members took office, city sanitation workers went on strike and Hyman was among the majority on the council who backed Mayor Henry Loeb’s hard line against the strike.

But Hyman was not a vocal hard-liner. In her definitive account of the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis in 1968, “At The River I Stand,” Joan Turner Beifuss defined Hyman as one of the council members who “filled in the middle ground” on the body.

“They sided with the hard-line, hands-off councilmen, but they were not rabid nor did they make the same kind of fiery and colorful speeches,” she wrote. “Hyman, with one-foot among his white neighbor constituents and one foot among his black business neighbors, was also to remain rather quiet during the strike.”

Then and later, Hyman would say that the differences that sparked the strike could have been avoided had the new form of government been in office longer. His business was picketed during the strike and one of his lumber yards on North Hollywood was firebombed three times in the rioting that followed King’s assassination.

By the end of his tenure on the council, the council was debating the idea of turning the site of King’s assassination into The National Civil Rights Museum.

Hyman’s announcement that he would not seek re-election was as low key as his approach to most issues he got involved in on the council. He told other council members between committee sessions one day at City Hall that he didn’t plan to run again in 1987 and asked how many of the others were going to call it a day. And several of the council members declared their intentions then and there.

Hyman was well aware there was a reporter in the committee room watching all of this take place. I doubt that he knew how frantically I was writing everything down and checking to make sure my tape recorder was recording the discussion and then wondering if this was some sort of practical joke. Hyman had a very dry sense of humor and could be quite the practical joker. In this case, he was not joking.

Hyman’s death leaves James Netters, Fred Davis and Lewis Donelson as the last surviving members of the charter Memphis City Council.

Loflin Yard snuggles up for the winter.

Valerie June books a Feb. 17 show at the Hi-Tone Café.

As the work week began, Elwood’s Shack on Summer Avenue had suffered a major fire with the owners saying no one was hurt and they intend to reopen.

In our Regional Business Emphasis:

The opening of Fast Track PILOT incentives in Shelby County and the argument that a business prospect that goes to DeSoto County is better for Shelby County than a prospect that goes to a different part of the country.

Fidelity National Bank in West Memphis marks its 50th year.

And Marion, Ark. leaders market their community as 15 minutes from an NBA game.

Now that you mention it … Marc Gasol didn’t make the Grizz trip to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game with the Cavaliers. The Grizz say Gasol is resting.

The Tigers are at the Forum Tuesday evening to play the Monmouth Hawks and the game is on ESPN3.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center gets a $4 million grant for military research projects that are a bit different. One is research into how to help women in the military return to fitness requirements after giving birth. The other Air Force project explores the ban on smoking by Air Force recruits. In applying for that grant, UTHSC researchers noted that about a third of Air Force recruits reported smoking before they enlisted. But a large percentage return to tobacco use after they complete training.

The Rotary Club of Memphis East is again taking nominations for the annual Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Awardsone for an elected official and another for a non-elected official. The Daily News is a cosponsor of the annual awards that promote and seek to better define good government.

A California man who admits he ripped off a businessman to the tune of $307,000 taken from the businessman’s bank account argued that he defrauded the businessman but not the bank he took the money from. The U.S. Supreme Court in a Monday ruling disagreed.

The federal deficit at $136.7 trillion in November, a sharp jump but overall about 10 percent lower than it was a year ago.

The Fed meets Wednesday and a rate hike is expected. So expected that there is already speculation about the reaction to the first interest rate hike in a year.

PROPERTY SALES 69 119 21,696
MORTGAGES 64 113 16,530
BANKRUPTCIES 28 64 6,781