After a lazy morning, I started the day visiting Sun Records. Sun Records is a record label founded by Sam Phillips.
Sun Records was known for giving notable musicians such as Elvis Presley (whose recording contract was sold to RCA Victor Records for $35,000 in 1955 to relieve financial difficulties Phillips' Sun was going through), Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash their first recording contracts and helping to launch their careers. Before those days Sun Records had mainly been noted for recording African-American artists, as Phillips loved Rhythm and Blues and wanted to get black music recorded for a white audience.
It was Sun record producer and engineer, Jack Clement, who discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis, while owner Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida. The original Sun Records logo was designed by John Gale Parker, Jr., a resident of Memphis and high school classmate of Phillips.
After this I headed to the Lorraine Motel and the The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, is a privately owned complex of museums and historic buildings built around the former Lorraine Motel at 450 Mulberry Street, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Major components of the complex on 4.14 acres include a museum which traces the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1600s to the present, the Lorraine Motel and hotel buildings as well as the Young and Morrow Building at 422 Main Street on the west side of Mulberry up a small hill across the street from the motel which was the site where James Earl Ray initially confessed (and later recanted) to shooting King from a second story bathroom window as well as the Canipe’s Amusement Store at 418 Main Street next door to the rooming house where the alleged murder weapon with Ray's fingerprints was found. Included on the grounds is the brushy lot that stood between the rooming house and the motel where a differing theory says the fatal shot came from a different weapon at ground level in a conspiracy involving Loyd Jowers who operated Jim's Grill which opened onto the lot.
The Lorraine Motel had not only guests, but residents as well. The last resident of the motel, Jacqueline Smith, had resided there since 1973 as part of her work for the motel as a housekeeper. When faced with eviction for the museum project, Smith barricaded herself in her room and had to be forcibly evicted.
The neighborhood surrounding the Lorraine Motel was a lower-income, predominantly black area. At the time, the area had run-down homes that rented for $175 a month. The homes were demolished and later replaced with more expensive apartments and condominiums, as part of the rejuvenation of the downtown area.
Smith stated that the Lorraine "should be put to better uses, such as housing, job training, free college, clinic, or other services for the poor... She has also stated that Dr. King would not have wanted $9 million spent on a building for him, and would not have wanted Lorraine Motel residents to be evicted.
Smith has maintained a vigil across the street from the Lorraine Motel for up to 21 hours per day for over 20 years, regardless of weather. She still holds vigil outside the Lorraine, although not as consistently as she has in the past.
My last stop for the day was a visit to St Jude's Children's Research Hospital. St. Jude was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, with help from Dr. Lemuel Diggs, on the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." Thomas named the hospital for Saint Jude Thaddeus, the Catholic patron saint of hospitals, desperate cases and lost causes. Thomas was a struggling young entertainer when he knelt in a Detroit church before a statue of St. Jude Thaddeus and asked the saint to "show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine." Thomas believed his prayer was answered, and he soon moved his family to Chicago to pursue career offers. Memphis was chosen at the suggestion of Samuel Stritch, a Tennessee native who had been a spiritual advisor to Thomas since he presided at Thomas's confirmation in Thomas's boyhood home of Toledo, Ohio.
Discoveries at St. Jude have completely changed how doctors treat children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today