A Miracle Maker
Just a Girl
Get Her Done!
Not for Sale
Preface & Reader Response
Mr. E. H. Crump had been "the" political leader who was the "sole" go-to man to get anything done or anyone picked to run for any office.
Two Paths Diverge (Time & Again): The Whys of a Young Life Seen Through Wiser Eyes
LAST MAN STANDING
First Ten Years Beyond High School
by Gerald Daniel Murley
FORWARD BY THE EDITOR
[NOTE: The titles and subtitles in this story are the editor's, not the author's.]
Two paths diverge and the one that is taken invariably is the most important – for the traveler at least, and his descendants. In our culture, it is often the man who in youth stumbles at the pinnacle of glory or the last man standing who is judged the winner. In some ways, my father managed to achieve early faltering glory and winning endurance along both paths. My tribute to him on Father's Day, weeks before his 80th birthday, stimulated much discussion and generated follow-up questions long left unanswered. It is the fortunate child indeed whose parent is of sound memory, of reflective ability and disposition, and a lucid writer, who can and will record a fuller story at the age of 80. It is the blessed adult of 80 with a cogent story, not full of pain, who can articulate a history as the last authority left standing. Divine judgment smiles on those who patiently toil in the fields and walk the path that leads to a seasoned perspective and a last word – and on those who also discover eager, youthful ears to listen.
In the eleven years that followed the glory days of high school (which included the first ten years of my life), my father experienced setbacks and victories. (Because of my age then, and over the years since, I gleaned little but fragments and formed faint impressions of the details of these events from occasional snippets of conversation – from the facial and body expressions that accompanied those conversations – and from the themes of social behavior emphasized time and again as eminent guiding lessons by my parents.) The decisions made as a consequence of these events had a significant impact on the development of our immediate and extended family over the past sixty years. The journey began with the marriage of my mother and father in June following my father's graduation and their move to Nashville to fulfill my father's commitment to his football scholarship and studies at Vanderbilt University.
– Jerry (G. D., Jr.) Murley
HOW THE GAME AT VANDERBILT ENDED
I had decided in high school that diesel power was the future for trains, cars and trucks and decided that I wanted to study diesel engineering. My high school chemistry teacher had encouraged me to go into chemistry as a college major. My high school principal told me that I should go to Vanderbilt because of my scholastic qualifications but without discussing a possible major. After considering football scholarships from the University of Mississippi and Vanderbilt University, I visited the Vanderbilt campus, accepted the Vanderbilt scholarship, and stopped looking. I might add that I did this without being asked, discussing or disclosing what my major would be. This was not too smart, but was done without counsel from home or school.
My high school sweetheart and I had planned for several months to marry upon my graduation and for her to go with me wherever I went to college. We were married on June 12, 1948, shortly after high school graduation. She requested and was granted a transfer to the Nashville Southern Bell Telephone business office. We found an apartment in a private home near Vanderbilt. And I was ready for early football practice before Vanderbilt started classes.
We started football practice to prepare for the first game, which was against Georgia Tech. I was put on the field to play Georgia Tech defensive end for Bill Wade and the Vanderbilt varsity to run their plays against. We were practicing in the summer heat without pads and that is when I got a knee in my back while running out for a pass. The team trainer put me in a hot shower every day instead of practice to try to get my back healed and this was where I learned from another Vandy player that he did not think that Vandy offered diesel engineering. The next day I made more inquiries of the university staff and found that he was right, no diesel engineering classes were offered.
After a few days of thinking about my situation and my Vanderbilt four-year scholarship, I decided that with my family background in real estate and building that I should change my mind and study architecture, only to find that Vandy also did not offer classes in architecture. After looking for some other good schools that offered architecture degrees, I found that the University of Virginia was one of the best and decided to apply there as a football player walk-on and try to get a scholarship. Of course, looking back now, I can see that there were a lot of problems with that idea, starting with financing for college. For one, my new wife was unlikely to transfer again, even if Southern Bell had an office near a second college option. We were just too young to see all those problems fast enough.
The thing that burst the University of Virginia bubble, though, was that when we gave up our Nashville apartment, the young couple who came to look at it had just come from trying to enter the University of Virginia and the enrollment was maxed out for 1948-49.
At this point I visited my mother and father in Memphis while I was still having problems with my back and my father had his doctor examine me. My dad's doctor told me that I could not play football anymore. I returned and told my Vanderbilt coaches that I was giving up my scholarship.
My wife and I moved back to Memphis and Southern Bell approved her transfer back to the Memphis business office. I enrolled in the Memphis Hemphill Diesel School for one semester, going to school for the first half of each day and working as a bill clerk for Southwestern Trucking Company for the rest of each day. After getting diesel studies out of my mind, I joined my brother and father in the family real estate and building business.
Several years later Elizabeth and I concluded that this is exactly what my father had had in mind all of the time, because he did not think that college was all of that important and he wanted me back in Memphis in the family business. His doctor may have helped him get me back.
I now wish that I had had advice and encouragement to keep my Vanderbilt scholarship and to change my major to business administration. Instead, I went to several different schools and colleges to study what I needed in business from time to time for several years more. I took insurance classes at the University of Tennessee to get my state insurance license to add insurance to our business. And later to take stocks and bonds classes at UT to start a new casualty insurance company in Tennessee. I studied concrete technology at the Memphis State to prepare for possibly joining a major cement company. And I studied Old and New Testament at the Memphis extension of Union University when I considered getting into church educational work.
If you think that kids today change their majors a lot not knowing what they want to do, I also changed a lot as different opportunities were presented that caught my attention and showed possibilities to help me. Like studying system and procedures through the North American School of Systems and Procedure of California by correspondence; business law by correspondence through La Salle Extension School in Chicago; real estate at the Realtors National Marketing Institute – commercial real estate investments, and international real estate marketing; and later for Section 8 housing consultant certification.
Four years at Vanderbilt and a degree in business administration would have saved me a lot of years of side tracks and detours. But through all of those years, and the years since, I have met more people and touched more lives than I would have otherwise. And I probably would not have served in the Tennessee State Legislature.
HOW THE TENNESSEE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BECAME AN OPTION
While in high school in the 1940s, I was captain of the football team, president of Honor Society, and president of Student Government. I played basketball, football, and track. And I was also a delegate to represent my high school at Tennessee Volunteer Boys State, where I was selected to run for Boys State Governor by all the delegates from Shelby County schools. However, I did not win the governorship and was elected instead to serve in the Boys State House of Representatives. This latter service included a trip to the Tennessee State Capitol to sit in the real House of Representatives and to see all of the history connected to the position of legislator. These activities and my experience in leadership in high school helped but had no direct influence on why I decided to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1956.
A chain of events that did influence my political decision occurred after we moved J. E. Murley & Sons (the family real estate sales and rentals, insurance and home-building business) office from the Commerce Title Building in downtown Memphis to a storefront office on U.S. Highway 51 N. in Frayser. It was in Frayser that I promoted our business and the community. We started raising our family in Frayser. We joined Frayser Baptist Church, where I served as a deacon. I was president of the Frayser Lions Club. I was also a member of the 51 North Improvement Club and the Frayser Civic Club and represented Frayser at the Memphis Council of Civic Clubs. As a member of the Frayser Civic Club, I often ended up being involved when something needed to be addressed by Memphis city government, Shelby County government or the state legislature. I also put together and published a weekly Frayser community calendar in The Frayser Call newspaper, which kept me in touch with all Frayser schools, civic and service groups, and churches.
Within a few years I was put on a special grand jury to hear and act on possible wrong doings in city government with later-to-be-mayor Henry Loeb. Later I was appointed to the Little White House on Education for our area. The legislature started being mentioned every time we discussed a need to indict or had a special need regarding education. I got the message that the Tennessee legislature was the only place where we could get help because often a special bill was required.
While all of this was going on over a period of time, Mr. E. H. Crump had been "the" political leader who was the "sole" go-to man to get anything done or anyone picked to run for any office. For each election, Mr. Crump listened to all those wanting to run for anything in Memphis and Shelby County. If he liked them, he did background checks on them and put them on the Crump Ticket, and then his lieutenants "discouraged" anyone else from running against those on his ticket to cut down on the cost of conducting each campaign. Mr. Crump held resignation letters from the mayors of the City of Memphis in case any got out of line.
Mr. Crump died the year that I was encouraged to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives by some Frayser political leaders with connections to the leaders who had formed the Citizens for Progress. The Citizens for Progress was composed of members of the Memphis Commission and the Shelby County Commission, and had a total membership of about 100 business men who put up money to finance the campaigns for election of the candidates whom they backed.
Being about 26 years old, I thought that I was too young to run in terms of the state constitution and therefore was somewhat cool to the idea. I discussed it with my wife, Elizabeth, who thought that I was crazy to ever think about it. But a few weeks went by and leaders continued to ask me to meet with the Citizens for Progress board to tell them about myself and my ideas. They later called and told me to announce my candidacy to the two city newspapers first and then they would announce who would be on their ticket later. And the rest is history – I ran.
For my first election, I had to run and campaign in the whole county; the candidates with the most votes out of all running were elected. We subsequently changed the election process to require that candidates run for a specific legislative position, such as position 1, 2, 3, etc., so that candidates ran against an individual for a specific position.
MAKING MEMPHIS STATE COLLEGE A UNIVERSITY
In November 1956 as a 27-year-old young man, I was elected to my first term in the Tennessee House of Representatives from Shelby County. After being sworn in for the office in January 1957 in Nashville, I suddenly realized that there were a large number of pieces of legislation that were on the "wish list" of many. Included in the many desiring specific legislative action were our City of Memphis Mayor, City and County Commissioners, the Shelby County Attorney General, our police department, fire department, County Sheriff, two school boards, surrounding cities and counties, to say nothing of the other public, corporate and private groups asking for special legislation to be considered.
The total needs that required action by the state legislature were overwhelming and our 1957 Shelby delegation in the General Assembly consisted of only three members in the Senate and eight members in the House. To make sure that we were fully informed on what we were voting on, we got our eleven members spread out and appointed to several committees each. Also, to make our eleven votes felt, we agreed to always vote as a unit, which meant that we had a delegation meeting every morning at the Hermitage Hotel before the legislature convened. At this meeting we reviewed the Senate and House calendars for that day and heard the details on any legislation to be voted on that day from our delegates on those particular committees. After hearing the details, we voted and whatever the results, our entire delegation voted that way, thereby giving us more voting power. By agreement, we were each released from the "unit vote rule" if the issue involved religion, labor unions, railroad, trucking or liquor by the drink. In those issues, each member of our delegation voted the dictates of his or her own conscience or conviction.
When the then Memphis State College administration approached us and pointed out the need for Memphis State to become a university, the whole delegation was in accord to introduce a bill to accomplish it. The bill was drafted and introduced in the House and in the Senate and the delegation began to individually lobby other legislators to help us get the votes for our bill.
On the morning of the day that we thought we had the votes for the passage of our Memphis State bill, we found that the Memphis Commercial Appeal, in trying to help us, had placed on each legislator's desk, a copy of that morning's publication with headlines about Memphis State and why it was imperative for the legislature to vote yes, in spite of the reasons that University of Tennessee administrators and graduates might give to vote no. In doing so, the newspaper brought information into play about why the many UT graduates and the UT administration did not want the bill to pass. This was like drawing a line in the sand between Memphis State graduates and UT graduates, and Memphis State was far outnumbered. We viewed this as the Commercial Appeal muddying the water and unnecessarily stirring up a hornet's nest of issues not there before.
To the best that I can remember about the details that occurred 52 years ago, we delayed the vote and started all over again to lobby and overcome the Commercial Appeal efforts to help. We assured our legislative colleagues that a yes vote for our bill was not an attempt to take anything away from UT. We also assured them that we just wanted a "University" status name change and did not want their dental or medical schools that were and are still in Memphis.
During our delay of the vote, we received some strong help from Dr. C. C. Humphreys, who was the assistant to Memphis State's President, Dr. Jack Smith, and a much respected UT graduate. With some help from Dr. Humphreys, the opposition fight was called off and the vote was a strong "yes" in the House and Senate.
Before the session was over our entire Shelby delegation, along with some other West Tennessee legislators, the Governor's staff, and Dr. Jack Smith attended the signing of the bill by Governor Frank Clement. A picture of the signing, that officially changed the name of Memphis State College to Memphis State University, a name which was later changed to the University of Memphis, is in the university's archives.
My two terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives offered many unusual experiences – some that I can write about and some that my best judgment dictates that I should not write about because of committee and hearing disclosure information. Being a legislator was an opportunity to build relationships with a number of people from all walks of life and an opportunity to learn more about my community, my city, my county and my state. One of my proudest moments was the honor of helping pass the bill that created Memphis State University in acknowledgment of the institution's growth and potential as a center of education in the state and region. The bill was signed by Governor Frank Clement sometime before the legislature adjourned in March 1957. (March was a long established adjournment date intended to allow the traditionally large number of farmers in the legislature time to get back to their farms for plowing and planting.) The effective date of the bill was July 1, 1957.