No, not that one.
Not that one either.
I’m talking about “King” Willie. Dr. Willie Herenton, former mayor of the great city of Memphis. Dr. Herenton is a lesson in local politics and media relations. He has created his own narrative written across the face of the bluff. Despite his insanity, his egomaniacal ways, his idiosyncrasies, and his penchant for ‘baby mommas’ (or perhaps because of them) he has been the defining political figure here for nearly 20 years. To deny that is simply a lie to yourself.
He is so potent a figure that he continues to dominate headlines. He is the Memphis political equivalent to a bloody car crash, a kidnapped child or murdered blonde white woman, that is to say, he’s irresistible for the media. He is catnip.
Every time I talk about Herenton I seem to come back to one name. A man who’s influence and iron grip on Memphis was stronger than Willie’s, Boss Crump. People think Herenton’s brazen corruption and race baiting is unique. It’s not.
Though only the mayor of 6 years, the stories of Crump’s domination of Memphis (and Tennessee) politics are legend. In fact, he was only finally pushed out of state control by the efforts of Al Gore Sr. He was the kingmaker, and he was frighteningly corrupt.
It would be difficult for one hardly-read blog to catalog his career, but I’ll relay a story to give you perspective. Crump was involved with the notorious Georgia Tann who ran a black market adoption agency in Memphis. It wouldn’t have been possible without Crump’s tacit approval.
“Tann used pressure tactics, threats of legal action and other methods to take children from their birth parents — mostly from poor single mothers — and selling them to wealthy patrons. Tann also arranged for the taking of children born to inmates at Tennessee mental institutions and those born to wards of the State through her connections.”
Now that, my friends is a corruption story…