The Memphis Thirty Five

Movers & Shakers of the Past Three Decades: A Special Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Photo Essay



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Steve Cohen

Elected to the Tennessee State Senate in 1982, Steve Cohen wandered into progressive politics as a gadfly, and spent the next two decades on the wrong side of more 32-1 votes than he could count. But his perseverance paid dividends in 2003, when his state lottery program, designed to provide college scholarships for Tennessee students, became law. Since then, tens of thousands have gone to college, quite literally, on Steve Cohen’s nickel. When Harold Ford Jr. mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate in 2006, Cohen won election to the vacant Ninth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Jewish congressman ever elected in the state. And he’s still a Memphis gadfly of the first order.

PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2011 BY LARRY KUZNIEWSKI

 

Maxine Smith

Threats, curses, outrage, scorn — she shrugged them off and stared the haters down. Marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, boycotts — she used them to topple racial walls. “Mad as hell” when then-Memphis State College denied her admission because of race, Maxine Smith earned degrees from Spelman and Middlebury. In 1962, she seized the gauntlet and for the next 33 years led the NAACP through an era of staggering social change. Despised for decades by defenders of the status quo, Smith stayed the course and opened doors for countless African Americans. Today she’s more likely to receive laurels, including a Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum and an honorary doctor of letters from the University of Memphis, the institution that rejected her more than half a century ago.

PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1980 BY LARRY KUZNIEWSKI

 

Pat Halloran

Nobody sells the sizzle like Orpheum CEO Pat Halloran, this city’s own version of a Broadway impressario. The former city council member deserves applause for his efforts to convert the old Malco Theatre into one of our city’s premier performing-arts venues. And when Halloran asked investors to consider a little-known rock-and-soul musical called Memphis, he didn’t blather about art enriching the soul. “The people who invested in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals are all driving Maseratis today,” he said, grinning like he was already sitting behind the wheel. Regardless of what he’s driving, Halloran takes a victory lap in October when the first national tour of Memphis, the 2010 Tony Award winner for best musical, makes its namesake city the first stop on its national tour.

PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2011 BY LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
 

Dave Brown

We know his face almost as well as our own. For nearly 35 years as chief weathercaster for WMC-TV, Dave Brown has informed us, worried us, calmed us, and yeah, at times, exasperated us when his forecast missed the mark. But that affable smile and straight-on delivery keep pulling viewers in. And when he lost a daughter and grandchild to a drunk driver, we felt the weight of his sorrow. He’s talked us through floods, droughts, icy assaults, brutal tornadoes, and a straight-line wind disaster that paralyzed the city. He’s been our port in every storm. If you can’t trust Brother Dave, who can you trust?

PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2011 COURTESY WMC-TV

 

Larry Finch

He was the star of the 1973 Memphis State Tigers, a team that fell one Bill Walton short of a national championship. His number 21 was the first to be retired by the city’s flagship team of choice. For a generation of Memphis basketball fans, he later became Coach Finch, not just the face of Tiger Nation, but its voice, its soul, its character. He won 220 games over 11 years (1986-97), and helped fellow Memphians like Elliot Perry, Penny Hardaway, and Lorenzen Wright achieve stardom well beyond the city limits. But here in Memphis, the legacy is clear: Basketball is Larry Finch, and Larry Finch is basketball.

PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1986 BY LARRY KUZNIEWSKI













 

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