A membership in the West Tennessee Historical Society – great for you, family, and friends – members receive the WTHS Papers – an annual publication of formal history articles regarding West Tennessee and Tennessee History (published by WTHS since 1947). Support WTHS and become a member today. Go to http://wths-tn.org/membership/ to download application and view benefits and activities. E mail Carol Perel at email@example.com for more information. Membership levels begin at $25! AND we have books! Visit http://wths-tn.org/publications-and-papers/ for list and description! Call Carol at 901 276 7154 to order – HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
WTHS Meeting Monday January 6, 2014 7 pm
Bring in the New Year at the January meeting of the West Tennessee Historical Society. Patrick Bolton of Christian Brothers High School will present the story of our nation’s first High School Band. Students of CBHS will appear in period uniforms performing music from the past.
Memphis University School – Wunderlich Auditorium 6191 Park Ave, Memphis Enter campus from Park Ave. and follow the WTHS signs
Visit The Best Times website at http://thebesttimes.com/. On stands at many locations across Memphis in December, pick up your copy and enjoy this article.
The WTHS thanks Perre and Percy Magness for their generous donation to the WTHS in memory of Ed Williams
The Fayette County Historical Society and The Somerville-Fayette County Friends of the Library cordially invite everyone to attend a book signing featuring Mr. David Smith and his book, THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW-PANDEMONIUM AT THE RIVER. The event will be held at the Somerville-Fayette County Library located at 216 W. Market St. in Somerville on December 12, 2013 from 4-7pm. Light refreshments will be served. Please bring a friend and join us for this very interesting and enjoyable event. Mr. Smith is a member of the West Tennessee Historical Society.
Christmas is almost here & gift shopping for the special folks in your life can be easy if you choose the perfect gift. WTHS offers books on Mid-South History – Contact Carol at 901 276 7154 or firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase. Click Publications and Papers at the top of the page to see list of books.
The Tennessee Genealogical Society is proud to announce that the Ulster Historical Foundation will present an exciting and fact-filled seminar for us on Saturday, March 15, 2014. The Tennessee Genealogical Society is making this FREE to the public with registration on a “first come/first serve” basis.(Seating is limited!) Box lunches will be provided and must be paid for at the time of registration. Visit the TNGS website (www.tngs.org) to register online. Lunch payments can be made by cash, check, or credit card.
Christian Brothers High School was the first high school in Shelby County to integrate with the enrollment of Jesse Turner Jr. as the first African American student on August 26, 1963. The school commemorated this event with a special all-school assembly honoring Mr. Turner and Brother Terence McLaughlin, F.S.C. on Monday, August 26, 2013, 50 years to the day.
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CBHS Was First School to Diversify, By John Harkins,
Christian Brothers High School became the first high school in Memphis to racially integrate its student body. Although this transition took place nearly a decade after the Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., Supreme Court decision and although what then was called Christian Brothers College was a “private school,” this dramatic, precedent-setting transition was not an easy one. Brother Terence McLaughlin has recently written and published a detailed account of this milestone, entitled “Silent Acceptance.” Brother Terence was president of the Christian Brothers’ Community here when the integration transition took place. His rendering of the relevant events, in proper context and perspective, is a story of the triumph of Christian fairness and perseverance over the Mid-South’s longstanding tradition of racial segregation. The family involved was that of Jesse H. Turner and his wife Allegra Will Turner. Allegra Turner had attended a Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church during the summer of 1962. While there, she picked up leaflets and an application card for what was then the high school department of Christian Brothers’ College. Coincidental to this, some years earlier, Jesse, Jr. had noticed the CBC campus and buildings at the corner of Central and East Parkway South. Finding out that it was a boys’ school and affiliated with his mother’s church, young Jesse announced that he wanted to go there. Although Jesse and Allegra Turner had suffered numerous indignities because of their race, they were determined to secure better life-circumstances for their children. On Aug. 20, 1962, Allegra mailed in Jesse Jr.’s application; it was processed and the Turners were notified of Jesse’s acceptance. All seemed well until the following May, when Tennessee’s Bishop Adrian announced his schedule for the racial integration of Catholic schools in West Tennessee. Under the bishop’s policy of gradual change, the high schools would not be integrated until the fall of 1966. Allegra Turner contacted CBC to find out if the new rules would affect her son’s registration. When Brother Terence wrote a letter to the bishop to inform him that CBC had already accepted a black student, the Brother was surprised and distressed to learn that the bishop and his superintendent of schools for Memphis both disapproved of his action. However, neither of them embraced responsibility for reversing CBC’s decision. A majority of the city’s Catholic clergy may also have opposed accepting blacks at that time. Irrespective, it seemed that CBC was to have little, if any, say in the matter. Brother Terence visited the Turner home and told Allegra frankly where the situation seemed to stand. Subsequently, Jesse and Allegra and her sister met with Msgr. Elliott to discuss the issue further. They seemed to be making no headway until Jesse Turner related that he considered the letter of acceptance to be a contract and, if necessary, he would sue the school for breaching that contract. On July 15, Allegra Turner penned a letter of appeal to the bishop. She summarized their views of the issue and reiterated that, if necessary, her non-Catholic husband (also then president of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP) intended to sue. She asked to receive positive and speedy word that Jesse Jr. would be accepted for the fall term of 1963. And, she got it! Within about 10 days, a letter from the dioceses’ superintendent of education advised CBHS to accept Jesse Jr. as had been initially indicated. Young Jesse embarked on his high school studies at the Parkway campus on Aug. 26, 1963. He became the first African-American student to enter a traditionally segregated Memphis high school, public or private. Jesse Jr. had a stellar academic experience at CBHS, graduating co-salutatorian of his class. His subsequent academic and business careers and his involvements in community service earned him induction into the CBHS Hall of Fame in 1995. CBHS will celebrate its initial racial integration on its 50th anniversary. Today, all 26 schools in the Catholic Diocese of Memphis permit no discrimination. And, ironically, the area’s bishop for the last 20 years has been African American J. Terry Steib.
John Harkins is archivist at Memphis University School and president of the West Tennessee Historical Society.
The Tennessee Digital Newspaper Project (TNDNP)is available on the Chronicling America web site. The TNDNP is part of the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities’ National Digital Newspaper Project.
Tennessee Digital Newspaper Project – A statewide panel comprised of historians, scholars, librarians and genealogists has selected a range of newspaper titles from across the state’s three Grand Divisions for inclusion in the project; approximately 100,000 pages in total. This initial phase of the project focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras. The first 14,000 pages are available to search or browse online at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/
Memphis Daily Appeal – The first Tennessee newspaper to be digitized for the TNDNP is the Memphis Daily Appeal, 1857-1872. Historical Tennessee newspapers lend real voices to pivotal events in the history of our state and the nation; offering an on-the-spot, first-hand account of events as they happened.
The Paul R. Coppock Award is presented by The West Tennessee Historical Society to an individual or organization for outstanding contribution to the area’s history. The award is chosen by the WTHS Board.The award is named for Paul R. Coppock, journalist-historian, who brilliantly chronicled our area’s past and contributed broadly to other spheres of civic betterment. Mr. Coppock’s career spanned 54 years at The Commercial Appeal, 1927-81. As night editor from 1946-67 he wrote the highly regarded column, “The Night Desk”. In that setting, The CA’s editors attempted to answer any question their readers might ask, building Paul’s encyclopedic store of local lore. Prior to his 1972 “retirement,” he began writing his longer and meatier weekly column, “Mid-South Memoirs.” During that time, he compiled dozens of his strongest articles into two, hardback anthologies, Memphis Sketches and Memphis Memoirs. After his death in 1983, his wife Helen had the rest of his historical newspaper writings published as the four-volume series, Paul R. Coppock’s Mid South. Paul’s six books contain hundreds of vignettes, and are considered the broadest and best source of popular Mid-South history.
Our 2013 recipient of the Paul R. Coppock Award is Willy Bearden who is a masterful and spellbinding storyteller. He uses state-of-the art techniques to interpret and popularize our area’s history. His stories resonate with his audiences and they inspire us to learn and to enjoy our local history beyond any other resource currently available. Mr. Bearden’s mission is to educate. He does much of his educational work gratis and inspires others to do likewise. His works include historical documentaries, education, business and training productions, as well as the production of meetings, conventions and live events.
The Willy Bearden Company has produced shows from San Diego, CA, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, including, since 1998, The Blues Music Awards – Blues Foundation show, The Blues Hall of Fame in Washington D.C., and The Blues Lifetime Achievement awards at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.
The company has been contracted to “tell the story” for many of the South’s museums and interpretive centers. The Biloxi Lighthouse, The Tunica River Park, The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange, The Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum in Tupelo, and the Pleasant Reed House in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Mr. Bearden has authored three books on Memphis history: Overton Park, Cotton: From Southern Fields to the Memphis Market, and “Memphis Blues: Birthplace of a Music Tradition.”
He has also worked to elevate the industry in the Memphis area by serving on the Governor’s Advisory Council for the Tennessee Film, Music and Entertainment Commission, the Board of Governors of National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the Board of Directors for Park Friends, Inc., founding member of The Delta Symposium, and as the past President of the Tennessee Organization of Producer Services.
In 2010 Willy’s feature film “One Came Home”, which he wrote, produced and directed, was filmed at the Davies Manor Plantation. Set in 1946, where a New Yorker with a secret has come to visit a family of women — mother, sister, widow — still mourning the dead soldier who, according to the “Yankee,” was a friend and brother on the battlefield.
Bearden’s Memphis Legacy Project is devoted to recording today by video and photos for future generations. This project has increased the digital archives collection at the Memphis Public Library with thousands of images.
These are just a few examples of Mr. Bearden’s work and I am sure that there are many more in the making. The WTHS is proud to acknowledge this outstanding individual, Willy Bearden for his accomplishments.