On The Hall of Mayors

 

There is a certain symmetry to the Hall of Mayors with the inclusion this week of the portrait of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

With the shift of William Ingram to another wall, all of the mayors under the current mayor-council form of government are on the same wall in the hall — Henry Loeb, Wyeth Chandler, Dick Hackett and now Willie Herenton – the longest serving mayor in the city’s history at 17 years and change.

To be more precise, Jan. 1, 1992 to July 31, 2009.

Ingram was moved to the east wall, next to Edmund Orgill, but it’s not chronological – at least not strictly speaking.

Loeb was mayor under the commission form of government from 1960-1963 before returning in 1968 for one term as the first mayor under the mayor-council form of government.

Conspicuously missing from the east wall is Mayor James Pleasants who served from 1947-1949.

Pleasants was elected but did not serve a full term, resigning in 1949 citing health concerns. Those few years also weren’t particularly good ones for the Crump political machine, whose namesake – Edward Hull Crump — is featured in his younger turn of the century years when mayors served two year terms and Tennessee had a prohibition law which Crump refused to enforce, leading to his resignation as mayor in 1915.

Herenton now has a portrait at City Hall to go with a statue of himself near LeMoyne Owen College in South Memphis. The statue was unveiled during Herenton’s tenure as mayor. He’s not the only mayor with a statue, however.

The statue of E.H. Crump is at the Poplar entrance to Overton Park standing imperiously with one hand atop a cane, the other – holding a hat – on his hip.

In the Memphis Pink Palace museum is a more animated and much smaller prototype that didn’t make the cut. It shows Crump with one arm raised in what was a more typical pose Crump displayed in photographs.

In both, Crump’s likeness is wearing what looks to be a winter coat that can look very warm on a winter day in Overton Park.

Pleasants isn’t the only city leader left out in the cold when it comes to City Hall.

Lt. Col. Thomas H. Harris and Capt. Channing Richards, the two military officials who ran the city during the city’s years of military rule during the Civil War, are not in the hall.

But the hall does include four other non-mayors. And they are the portraits that are usually the backdrop for announcements in the Hall of Mayors.

They were the presidents of the taxing district during the 12-year period after the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemics when the city of Memphis lost its charter.

They are John Overton Jr., Dr. D.T. Porter, David Park Hadden and William D. Bethell.

Their portraits are directly opposite the wall with the four most recent elected mayors.

If you’ve been at or watched on television a press conference in the Hall of Mayors, those are usually the painted faces in the background.

 

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