The Memphis Thirty Five
Movers & Shakers of the Past Three Decades: A Special Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Photo Essay
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With a life well-lived, some developers leave behind a footprint on their community. Behind Henry Turley will be an entire Memphis landscape. Turley’s brilliance was in recognizing — and, importantly, acting upon — what now seems obvious: The most valuable real estate in the world is next to water. With downtown Memphis perched alongside the mightiest stream in North America, a breathtaking neighborhood (or two) awaited birth. Stroll through Harbor Town or South Bluffs today, and you’d think the mighty homes and river views have been there a century when, in fact, most are barely 20 years old, the realization of Turley’s vision for making downtown more than a business center. If downtown is the face of Memphis, Henry Turley is the face of downtown.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2011 BY BRANDON DILL
William B. “Billy” Dunavant took the cotton business from Memphis to the world. Three decades before “the world is flat” became a cliché, Dunavant saw that the cotton business was global, not regional, and that the future was not the American South but China. Declaring that Front Street and its venerable Cotton Exchange were for old men gossiping and playing dominos, Dunavant moved his operations to a warehouse east of Memphis International Airport in the early 1970s and never looked back. History would prove him right, and downtown Memphis would never be the same. A fiercely competitive sportsman, Dunavant would also leave his mark on Memphis as founder of The Racquet Club, owner of a now-defunct professional football team, patron of Ducks Unlimited, and philanthropist.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2008 BY MURRAY RISS
Nobody in America knows brand management like John Malmo. The elder statesman of Memphis marketing and advertising, he’s been a bit of a Mad Man for the better part of half a century. In 1967 he founded John Malmo Advertising and grew it into the largest firm in the Mid-South. In 1991 he sold to Ward Archer & Associates, creating a juggernaut local agency, archer>malmo. When it comes to a business model, brand, slogan, or logo, you can be sure the iconoclast has an opinion and is happy to share it. Author of the business book When on the Mountain There Is No Tiger, Monkey Is King, he has penned hundreds of newspaper and magazine columns (including a regular stint in the pages of MBQ) and delivers regular commentaries on WKNO radio.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2011 BY JOHN MARKHAM
He got what he got the hard way. And he’s made it better each and every day. Those lyrics from “Soul Man” sum up the remarkable career of songwriter/producer/performer David Porter, surely the greatest living Stax icon who still calls Memphis home. With late partner Isaac Hayes, he formed one of the most revered songwriting teams in music history (penning “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” among others). He’s supplied the hip-hop generation with a wealth of material and made a mint off the royalties. And he’s emerged post-Stax as both an immensely successful businessman outside the music world and local ambassador/elder statesman, visible from the Grammy Awards gatherings to Grizzlies games.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2009 BY JUSTIN FOX BURKS
Dorothy Gunther Pugh
Not only is she an accomplished dancer, classically trained in New York and London, and a member of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences, Dorothy Gunther Pugh is also one of only a handful of female artistic directors in the country. As the founding artistic director and CEO of Ballet Memphis, Pugh has vaulted Memphis to the top of the national ballet scene. In a recent interview on PBS NewsHour, Pugh discussed her unique role as a female artistic director: “I did it in my community. I didn’t go where I had a professional job offer in Pittsburgh. To this day now, I think I knew that I had something to say and I had to lead and I had to do it my way.”
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1989 BY ALAN ULMER