VOL. 131 | NO. 55 | Thursday, March 17, 2016
Last Word: Putt and 1969, Fred Smith on Amazon and Ramsey's Departure
By Bill Dries
George Howard Putt died in prison sometime last year state prison officials disclosed Wednesday -- far from the brief time he spent in Memphis but never far from the carnage he left behind in the Memphis of 1969.
The bodies of the first two of the five people killed by Putt between Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, 1969 were discovered just days after the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles by the Manson family dominated national news coverage. Less than a year earlier the Boston Strangler movie was in theaters, creating a sensation about the murders committed by serial killer Albert DeSalvo in Boston just a few years earlier.
Bernalyn and Roy Dumas were strangled by Putt in their home in Cooper-Young and Putt mutilated her body in a way that police homicide detectives still wouldn’t talk about decades later. The bodies were found in separate rooms.
Even with no details other than the names of the victims, the city was quickly spooked by the double murder. So when the body of Leila Jackson was found short of two weeks later, the city’s reaction was a palpable fear in which anyone unknown was to be avoided. Memphians didn’t tarry after work. They went home and bolted the doors.
It got worse as more victims turned up with little in common other than four of the five were women. They were of varying ages. Some were strangled and some were stabbed.
Just about any magazine rack of the day include true crime magazines that by the late 1960s were beginning to look very dated in their lurid noir-like covers teasing the most sensational crime narratives of the day.
They were an intentional contrast to the cover images of youth in bright colors in natural settings in other magazines heralding a new future and youth culture.
The murders in a Southern city, whose 1969 conservatism is hard to describe nearly 50 years later, quickly grabbed the covers of the true crime magazines. And the images they offered spoke to the scenic reality where Putt roamed even as the murders continued.
Apartment buildings and boarding houses were the settings for some of the murders but not all.
Glenda Sue Harden was last seen walking to her car parked on the Cobblestones from the insurance office she worked at nearby. Her body was found in Martin Luther King/Riverside Park hidden under a piece of plywood.
At one of the murder scenes, police found an ice pick stuck in the side of the building with a stocking tied around it.
Putt’s last victim, in an apartment building on Bellevue, screamed as she was stabbed repeatedly and others in the building gave chase with police close behind, arresting Putt near the new and unopened section of the interstate that runs west of Bellevue.
Putt tried to force his way into another apartment nearby but the women inside kept him on the other side of the door.
The killer that panicked an entire city was a skinny utterly forgettable guy in his 20s with sideburns and glasses who appeared to have rarely roamed beyond a community of neighborhood bars, boarding houses and old apartment buildings in the Midtown and Medical Center areas.
It turns out he came to Memphis after walking away from a prison farm in Mississippi and into a Memphis that was slowly but surely changing. And the world that Putt encountered would soon vanish in large part.
Overton Square’s incarnation was about a year away. A new bridge was about to be built across the Mississippi River as part of Interstate 40 which was to go through Overton Park just south of the north-south leg of the interstate where Putt was captured.
Originally sentenced to death, Putt’s sentence was commuted when the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty in the early 1970s.
He was serving a 497-year sentence when he died at the Turney Center Wednesday in Only, Tennessee.
Putt never sought parole and never gave any explanation for why he killed five people in less than a month and his apparently random selection of victims.
Quarterly earnings calls for FedEx Corp. are at least a step above the conference calls for many corporations.
There is a certain corporate double speak for investors and analysts on the calls that are the equivalent of politicians who say they are for education and against crime. On the earnings calls there is lots of use of the phrase “creating value” and “runways” and if you listen in on enough earnings calls you quickly come to commit the “safe harbor” disclaimer to memory.
The disclaimer is the company’s legal eagles’ method of telling anyone listening that on the off chance that any company executive makes any kind of specific statement about future plans, it is not something any investor can bank on. It’s tentative. It’s speculative and several other similar sounding words that the company will use in court if a lawsuit if filed.
FedEx calls are more eventful for the simple presence of the company’s founder Fred Smith.
Even the most even and uneventful quarters for FedEx reflected in the calls include at least Smith’s explanation that analysts trying to measure one part of FedEx against another are seeing the company the wrong way. They don’t understand, he will explain, that FedEx is a portfolio.
Smith was not happy at all Wednesday with all of the press coverage about Amazon’s decision to lease 20 jets to begin delivering its own products. Some of the coverage included speculation that Amazon was going from customer of FedEx to competitor.
Not so said Smith who also had some thoughts on the Pacific trade pact that has become a hot topic in the presidential campaigns and on government regulation, which he compared to a barnacle.
On another macro-economic front, The Fed stays the course on its key rates.
It looks certain that the state Senate won’t vote on its version of the deannexation proposal until next week in Nashville. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell were in Nashville Wednesday to talk with Shelby County legislators.
Strickland was there to work toward the defeat of the bill in the Senate, which so far has been hard to read on where the votes there line up. The House passed the bill earlier this week after a roiling two-hour floor debate between Memphis Democrats in the chamber and virtually everyone else.
Here’s more about the options that are shaping up back here.
Speaking of the Legislature, our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard with the gift of timing – a profile of Senate Majority leader Mark Norris that shows up as Lt. Gov. and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey made the surprise announcement Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this year – meaning there’s an opening at the top of the chart in the Senate. And it was a surprise which means that noise you hear is a scramble.
Norris was interviewed before that happened. But there were some comments on the possibility as well as Norris’s already declared interest in possibly running for governor in 2018.
In his View From The Hill column, Stockard looks at the fire Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing proposal is taking from both parties.
There was an attempt Wednesday to revive Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal. It failed. But to be fair, the referendum move didn't have Haslam's support.
Remember the recently departed Crittenden County Hospital in West Memphis? It could be the new home for the prison currently in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
We don’t often get a glimpse of this side of higher education – it’s the security side. What happens on a campus to prepare for what has come to be known as an “active shooter.”
It turns out the plans here are well developed with extensive preparations that aren’t apparent until or unless the unthinkable happens.
Agricenter International has a new leader. He is John R. Butler, a Dyer County farmer.
The one-day Midsouth Food Truck Fest at Tiger Lane is back for a second year at the Fairgrounds.
And the group Young Women Philanthropists is preparing to hold its fourth Modern Day Women’s Conference this month aimed at empowering women 25 to 45 years old.