The Memphis Thirty Five
Movers & Shakers of the Past Three Decades: A Special Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Photo Essay
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When he passed away in 2009, this underground godfather of modern Memphis music was the scene’s most colorful commentator. With roots that reached back to jug bands and Sun Records, Dickinson came of age in the garage-rock and folk-revival ’60s, presided over the birth of alternative music with Alex Chilton in the ’70s, hung with Dylan and the Stones, did major work in the generally fallow ’80s, and sired a promising new generation of Memphis music both in his family (sons Luther and Cody, of the North Mississippi Allstars) and in his home studio (Lucero, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Amy LaVere). He also found the time to make some pretty fine records on his own. Dickinson contained multitudes. And he could tell you all about it.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2000 BY STEVE DAVIS
J.R. “Pitt” Hyde
Entrepreneurship was a biological imperative to Pitt Hyde. He grew up watching his grandfather and father turn Malone & Hyde into one of the country’s largest food wholesalers. “They took risks that many people considered unwise — and succeeded, despite the odds,” Hyde says. “I believe my exposure to this type of ‘pioneering’ mindset … gave me the drive to try new, unproven ventures.” These ventures include being the founder of autoparts giant AutoZone, chair of biopharmaceutical startup GTx Inc., co-founder of the private equity firm MB Ventures, the impetus (along with his wife, Barbara) behind the $69 million Hyde Family Foundation, and scion of several other highly placed and deep-pocketed endeavors rooted in Memphis — most notably the National Civil Rights Museum and Ballet Memphis.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2011 BY BRANDON DILL
A funny thing keeps happening to Deanie Parker on the way to her retirement party: She never gets there. Perhaps best known as the publicity director for Stax Records in the 1960s and 1970s and one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy, Parker has retired twice as CEO but remains an active board member. Having also helped shape Memphis in May and communications at The Regional Medical Center, her post-Stax Museum life finds her behind the scenes again, both as producer and theme songwriter for the Emmy Award-winning documentary “I AM A MAN” about the 1968 sanitation worker strikers. The film is a project of the Memphis Tourism Education Foundation, which Parker took over as chair in 2010 on her way to that retirement party again.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2010 BY RONNIE BOOZE
To understand the impact John Elkington has had on downtown Memphis, consider Beale Street before he began to manage it in 1983: blocks of abandoned and boarded-up buildings, and trash littering otherwise empty streets. But, as the developer and manager of modern Beale Street, Elkington — formerly a partner in the local real-estate firm of Elkington-Keltner — transformed it into Memphis’ premier entertainment district and one of the top tourist destinations anywhere. The relationship between Elkington and city government ended in 2010. Following the announcement, Memphis mayor A C Wharton said, “Pioneers always get bloodied. [Elkington] went in when others did not go in, and this community owes him a debt of gratitude.” We agree.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 2008 BY JUSTIN FOX BURKS
During his 85 years of life, the late great judge, lawyer, and Baptist minister blazed trails for minorities when he became the first African American appointed to the criminal court bench in Tennessee and the first named to the five-member Federal Communications Commission. Hooks, who died in 2010, also steered the national NAACP during the Reagan and Bush eras, when conservative backlash posed setbacks to gains in civil rights, all the while maintaining a ministry in Memphis. As a boy, he was gripped by a fear of public speaking. Yet he became an orator extraordinaire, moving landmark legislation through the courts and firing up hearts from the pulpit. A local and national icon, Hooks in 2007 received our country’s highest award, the Presidential Medal of Honor.
PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1982 BY LARRY KUZNIEWSKI