You’ve driven them so much, they are like old friends: Bill Morris Parkway. E.H. Crump, Sam Cooper, GE Patterson and Danny Thomas boulevards. And then there’s Austin Peay and Paul Barret.
Have you ever wondered who these people are? We sure did, so we tracked down a little history on each, so you can impress your friends and neighbors – or maybe win an upcoming trivia night.
Here are nine Memphis streets named for Memphians you need to know! (Of note, we didn’t include Elvis Presley Boulevard in our list. It’s one of the city’s most famous named streets, being the home address of Graceland. We figured if you don’t know who Elvis was, you’d better not admit that in Memphis!)
Paul Barret Parkway
Paul Weisiger Barret was a prominent Shelby County politician for four decades, having never lost an election. A graduate of Memphis University School, Barret enlisted in the U.S. Army for World War I, returning home to open the Barretville Bank and Trust Company at age 21. The bank became one of the state’s most successful and largest rural banking systems, and he later founded the Barret Company, a cotton dealer. Barret was a crony of E.H. “Boss” Crump, the political boss of the city of Memphis.
Sam Cooper Boulevard
The son of a tailor, Sam Cooper grew up poor in the Pinch District, and his story is definitely that of the American dream. Interested in business, Cooper took a job with the Humko Corporation, a vegetable oil processor and cottonseed refining plant, as an office assistant. Cooper rose to the presidency of Humko, serving for 24 years in that capacity and becoming a major civic leader during that time. He is credited with helping keep St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.
E.H. Crump Boulevard
Edward Hull (E.H.) Crump, better known as Boss Crump, was THE MAN in Memphis for decades, a man who was either feared or revered, depending on one’s perspective. Crump served two terms as the mayor of Memphis, first from 1910-1916, then again in 1940-1942. Crump is widely thought to have had a hand in the election of every man who served as mayor of Memphis from after his first term through 1954.
Bill Morris Parkway
William N. “Bill” Morris served as both mayor and sheriff of Shelby County, and perhaps is best known during his law enforcement days (1964 to 1970) as being in charge of the custody of Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray. As Shelby County mayor, he was one of the main proponents of introducing a bison herd into Shelby Farms.
GE Patterson Avenue
Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson served as the international Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ, Inc., which is headquartered in Memphis. Patterson was the founder of Bountiful Blessings Ministries, carried nationally and internationally on cable networks and local television stations. He was president of Podium Records and was twice nominated for a GRAMMY award and a Soul Train Music Award.
Austin Peay Highway
Austin Peay IV was the governor of Tennessee from 1923 until his death in 1927; he was the only Tennessee governor to die while in office. His tenure was filled with quite a bit of accomplishment, as he consolidated state agencies, expanded the state highway system and turned a budget deficit into a surplus. He was also instrumental in the governmental support for the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Danny Thomas Boulevard
Danny Thomas was never a Memphian, but his impact on our city is felt worldwide, and next to Elvis, he might be the next most famous, if honorary, Memphian. He famously prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, when he was a struggling entertainer trying to support his family. According to the hospital’s website, he vowed to the saint one night in a Detroit church, “Show me my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.” He founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital here in Memphis in 1962, and changed the course of childhood cancer and infectious disease research.
Rufus Thomas Boulevard
One of the city’s most-loved entertainers, Rufus Thomas Jr. was a bit of an all-around entertainer, writing, singing and recording the blues, soul and funk, as well as spending some time as a DJ and dancer. He might best be known outside of Memphis for the novelty dance records he recorded, including “Do the Funky Chicken.”
This is our only road named for a family, as opposed to an individual. General James Winchester of Middle Tennessee sent his son, Marcus, to scope out the land to the west that would eventually become Memphis. Based on Marcus’ report, James Winchester, Andrew Jackson and John Overton cut a deal with the Chickasaw tribe, and Memphis was born.
There’s your dose of local history!