VOL. 10 | NO. 17 | Saturday, April 22, 2017
April 21-27, 2017: This week in Memphis history
1865: The steamboat Sultana, many times over its capacity of several hundred people on board, explodes on the Mississippi River north of Memphis after docking at the cobblestones Downtown. Most of the passengers on board are Union soldiers just released from Confederate prison camps at the end of the Civil War, many returning to homes in East Tennessee.
The boat’s journey from Vicksburg where the prisoners boarded comes amidst a flurry of events from the war’s end to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, all of which obscures what is the greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history. Its death toll – 1,800 people on a boat overloaded with 2,400 passengers – is larger than the death toll in the better-known Titanic disaster 47 years later.
1930: On the front page of The Daily News, Memphis Mayor Watkins Overton announces plans for a riverfront clean-up “directed against squatter’s shacks and other unsightly buildings on Mud Island and the Wolf River front.”
Workers are pouring the concrete foundation of the new north wing that’s being added to the post office building on Front Street at Madison along with a new south wing.
And Shelby County Schools submits a $1.6 million budget request to the Shelby County Quarterly Court. About $1 million of the request is for elementary schools, with the rest for high schools. Under a new state law, half of the request for high schools, approximately $300,000, must go to the city.
1967: James Earl Ray, an inmate at the Jefferson City Penitentiary in Missouri serving time for armed robbery, escapes from the prison by hiding in a metal box in a bakery truck. He would be recaptured a year and two months later in London. After extradition to Memphis, he would plead guilty to the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1993: Paul McCartney at the Liberty Bowl.