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VOL. 133 | NO. 177 | Thursday, September 6, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Graceland Opens Vigil, Hunt-Phelan For Sale and Southern Heritage

By Bill Dries

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After two years of making the Elvis candlelight vigil more about who paid and getting people in line, Graceland said Wednesday the vigil will return to being a free event next August – no admission, no buying packages that include the vigil. The timing on this is interesting coming about two weeks after the 2018 edition of the vigil.

The vigil has been through its own dark and stormy night over the last three years. The 2016 vigil followed the July bridge protest with Graceland a target in the days following that protest as protest leaders expressed their anger at the aftermath of the protest by blocking traffic with several arrests. When the vigil came around about a month later, Graceland and Memphis Police attempted to shut down any attempt at a protest there by trying to determine who was Elvis fan and who was Black Lives Matter protester. There were more arrests and a lawsuit claiming the method of determining who was who was based on skin color.

The pay policy went into effect in 2017 with the traditional street displays and art pushed to the side to make way for an elaborate fenced in area for those who had paid to go up the hill in Whitehaven. That continued this year.

So when this is all free again next year, Elvis Week will still remain different if you haven’t been in a few years simply because Graceland is different. Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the entertainment complex across the boulevard from the mansion, will remain much more of a center of activity than the old Graceland complex was when it was closer to the street and the mansion remained an ever present backdrop for all of the activities. EP's Memphis is its own enclosed area further from the street.

Graceland also announced Wednesday it will open its exhibition space at EP’s Memphis in May and that space, toward the back of the property, will replace the large tent that for several years has been home to the live performances of various Elvis tribute artists during Elvis Week. The tent show, that in various versions at various locations for several decades, has featured Elvis performers of all sizes, ages and Elvis phases is moving indoors.

Wright Medical in Arlington confirmed Wednesday it has plans for an expansion of its plant there. But there are few details other than a $9 million building permit filed this week that crossed our desk and began the questions that led to the confirmation.

The Hunt Phelan House, the last mansion on Beale Street, is up for sale. The 1828 mansion on the National Register of Historic Places at Beale and Lauderdale is listed for $3.5 million. That’s all 6.24 acres including an eight-car garage and other buildings on the property.

Two new appointments by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris Wednesday. Marlinee Clark Iverson is the new county attorney, coming from being a magistrate at Juvenile Court. Before that she had served as an assistant county attorney. And Harris has appointed Nicole Lacey on an interim basis to be communications director for the county. Lacey is on loan from the same duties she performs at the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

Kirby High School is closed for the rest of the week because of a recurring pest problem. SCS officials got the all clear Monday to reopen Wednesday. But during a walk through Wednesday, the school system found new signs of the issue. So school is out at Kirby for the rest of the week with a community meeting set for Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Hickory Ridge Middle School.

As mentioned when last we met, this is Southern Heritage Classic week around the city this week. The Tennessee State-Jackson State match up Saturday at the Liberty Bowl is the centerpiece of a series of events that promoter Fred Jones started and has nurtured into an event that is bigger than a football game and the Fairgrounds including the Orange Mound Parade Saturday morning at Park and Haynes.

We get our first look at the Grizz in about three weeks when the NBA team opens its training camp at the forum.

Republican nominee for Governor Bill Lee in town Wednesday in the post-Labor Day start of the campaign to the Nov. 6 election day and like Democratic rival Karl Dean, the day before in the city, Lee talked about making economic development for Memphis something unique with more help from the state and a recognition that Memphis has a harder time because of competition across two state lines.

More from Dean’s campaign swing through the area, specifically his call to make the regional megasite in Haywood County “shovel ready.”

There are three Memphis state legislators interested in becoming the state House Democratic caucus leader. Sam Stockard, our Nashville correspondent, reports Karen Camper, Joe Towns and G.A. Hardaway are among those interested in the position Ripley Democrat Craig Fitzhugh gave up as he ran unsuccessfully in the August Democratic primary for Governor.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on the anonymous New York Times op-ed that ran Wednesday from a source in the White House who says some on President Donald Trump’s staff are running what amounts to a resistance effort. “This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one. … I understand this is the case and that’s why I think all of us encourage the good people around the President to stay.”

The Corker-Trump relationship may be in another rough patch. The day before Corker reacted critically to Trump’s recent spate of Twitter attacks on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions per CNN.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396