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VOL. 133 | NO. 120 | Friday, June 15, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Bird Is The Word, Governors Quartet and Charlie Morris's Secret

By Bill Dries

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Former Vice President Joe Biden plays the Orpheum Friday evening. Maybe that isn't the right way to put it -- unless there's a drum solo no one is talking about. Free Bird?

Former Vice President Joe Biden is at the Orpheum Friday night.

I'll take it as further evidence of the new American politics that is evolving and is far from settled at this point. Politicians do paid speaking gigs all the time. And at times it is controversial. But the gigs are usually some kind of speaking fee to make remarks at a corporate function -- not selling individual tickets on line. This is ostensibly to promote Biden's new book and book deals and politicians go way back. But in a lot of cases, those are free events in a book store. When Biden was last here, it was as vice president at the Norfolk Southern intermodal rail yard in Rossville.

This tour is booked at a pretty good clip that has been going since last November with a break in March, April and May. Memphis looks to be the final stop at least for this leg. No word as this goes up on who the moderator will be at the Orpheum. But in other cities it has included former Senator George Mitchell, Stephen Colbert, Aaron Sorkin and Al Roker.

Bird electric scooters have their formal launch Friday in Court Square. City leaders offered a peek Thursday.

So we shall see how this goes with a former vice president who may or may not be considering a bid for President in 2020 in a blue dot in a red state. Here's The Charlotte Observer on his stop there Wednesday.

It was just about three weeks ago that the Explore Bike Share undertaking was launched in Court Square. And Friday afternoon, another of the “shared mobility” services will be launched there as well. City leaders gave a preview of Birdan electric scooter service – in Court Square Thursday. And this is a broader undertaking than bikes and scooters. It’s tied to the Memphis Area Transit Authority as well as Uber and Lyft and Airbnb in what is called a “demand economy.” We will have more on the broader view of this in the Monday edition and the follow-up that shows up Tuesday during council day committee sessions at City Hall.

Four of the major contenders for Tennessee Governor showed up for a forum at this week’s annual meeting of the Tennessee Bar Association at the Peabody. And it was an interesting set of four separate Q&As with Randy Boyd, Beth Harwell, Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh. The issues included immigration, judicial selection, criminal justice reform and racial disparities as well as whether the Tennessee Attorney General should remain appointed.

Behind the scenes, Circuit Court Judge Creed McGinley of Savannah pulled up a black and white video clip on his iPhone of Fitzhugh playing guitar in a folk group called “WeSeven” on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour television program of the 1950s and 1960s.

When a publicly-traded company’s quarterly earnings calls become a quarterly event that’s usually not a good thing. Unless it’s FedEx because you have the company founder on the call. The norm for this rule was the case Thursday when Memphis-based Fred’s Inc. announced it has hired a consultant to explore selling its retail pharmacy businesses. And that is just days after it closed on the deal with CVS to sell its specialty pharmacy businesses. If there is anything left of the considerable effort Fred’s was making to go from dollar-store chain to personal healthcare chain beyond that, it can’t be very substantial. Last year, the ambitious move collapsed when Fred’s got cut out of what was to be a three-way deal with Walgreen’s and CVS.

Here is the Forbes write-up with more background and possible suitors who might buy the retail pharmacy stuff – including some familiar names.

Kim Kardashian West and Alice Johnson on the Today show Thursday morning.

Charlie Morris, in the last years of his life, began talking about the lynching of his brother in Arlington in 1939. Morris died this week at the age of 97.

Meanwhile, the case of Cyntoia Brown is drawing a lot of similar attention. And it could be coming back to the Tennessee Supreme Court from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the issue is whether she should be eligible for parole sooner. Brown is serving a life sentence for killing a man in Nashville when she was 16. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, in Memphis earlier this week, said he is aware of her case and talk of a clemency request. But Haslam said as of Wednesday he has no formal request before him.

In the last years of his life, Charlie Morris – well known political activist and organizer – started talking about a family secret, the 1939 death of his brother Jessie Lee Bond in Arlington. And his testimony last year in Nashville led to the passage of laws to start investigations into civil rights cold cases. Morris died Thursday.

Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter was in town recently as an instructor dropping in on the Redbirds operation and talking to us about the state of the game.

St. Louis Cardinals –Memphis Redbirds pitcher Chris Carpenter in a Q&A on the state of the game: “Let’s leave our good game alone. Let us enjoy it. Let it be a baseball game. That’s one of the greatest things about our game, everybody else had a clock and we didn’t.”

Don Wade’s “Press Box” column is on Grizz owner Robert Pera’s rare public appearance this week and why it wasn’t necessarily the balm for Memphis anxiety about the team.

And Chamique Holdsclaw’s journey to being comfortable with herself and why basketball isn’t who she is.

The cover story by Don Wade in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about Stubby Clapp’s winning tenure as Redbirds manager so far. The PDF of the new issue is up now on this website. The hard copies are in the racks Friday morning and the online version of the cover story goes up here Friday afternoon.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen on the Justice Department Inspector General’s report issued Thursday on the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as Secretary of State. Cohen is ranking member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution:


“The Inspector General’s report makes it clear that the decision not to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of private email was not infected by political bias or ‘other improper consideration’ and was right on both prior Justice Department precedent and the facts. Meanwhile, nothing in today’s report contravenes Trump’s own word that he fired former FBI Director James Comey over ‘this Russia thing’ in statements made to both to Lester Holt of NBC and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. The suggestion that his rationale for firing Comey was his handling of the Clinton case belies his own statements. My fear is that the President and his associates will attempt to misrepresent these findings in the press.”

Booked for the Southern Heritage Classic Music Festival at Landers Center Sept. 7, MAJOR, a singer-songwriter who scored big last year with “Why I Love You.” Here is an article from Billboard late last year.

A dozen local start-ups make up the fourth year of the Summer of Acceleration program in what you might call summer school for start-ups. Or maybe a summer camp which is what the PRIZM Ensemble has going on at Shady Grove Presbyterian.

Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president Scott Brockman is our guest on “Behind The Headlines” to talk about the airport’s ongoing transformation from majority connecting flight to an origin and destination airport five years after the dehubbing by Delta… and about that New York Times piece on the airport’s emptiness. The show airs Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on WKNO TV.

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270