FedEx at Forty: How It All Began

Three of the company's earliest employees recall how FedEx got off the ground.

photograph by Steve Davis

(page 1 of 4)

Most people skimming the December 20, 1972, edition of the old Memphis Press-Scimitar probably overlooked a tiny article buried in that day’s business section. The headline announced, “Jet Air Freight Line Weighs Opening Branch in Memphis.” Anyone who bothered to read further learned that “Federal Express, a Little Rock-based jet air-freight line, is considering putting a branch operation at Memphis International Airport.”

Well, so what?

After all, Memphis was home to manufacturing giants International Harvester, Kimberly-Clark, Firestone, and Grace Chemical. We had a growing medical center, all sorts of city, state, and federal government offices, and a huge Internal Revenue Service processing center near the airport. A Little Rock company hardly seemed worthy of a news item, even if they did plan to open a “branch operation” here.

Toss aside 40 years of calendars, and that little newspaper clipping now has considerably more significance, doesn’t it? The big industries are gone, most of the manufacturers have left town, and the IRS center — along with just about everything else along Democrat — was taken over by that “Little Rock freight line.” Today, the economic giant of  this entire region is FedEx.

But it absolutely, positively didn’t happen overnight.


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