Ernest Withers home turned into museum

Jerrita Patterson

Updated: Feb 10, 2018 – 5:54 PM

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – If you take a drive down West Brooks Road in Southwest Memphis, you’ll notice something different.  A humble home that sits at the corner is now a museum.

“There are three kings in Memphis. Elvis Presley, the king gave us our voice. B.B. King gave us our soul and Dr. Withers gave us our conscience,” Planning Director Josh Whitehead said.

Saturday, several dozen locals, city and county leaders, along with the family of Ernest Withers gathered under a tent as the home where he lived officially became a part of the historic district.

“It transports people such as me who grew up in East Memphis in the 1980s somewhat dislocated from the cause to be an ally of the cause,” Whitehead said.

Mr. Withers was one of the first two African American officers hired by the Memphis Police Department. A moment current Police Director Michael Rallings said paved the way.

“He was a man of courage, a trailblazer of leaders,” Director Rallings said.  “I’ll never forget that I stand on the shoulders of giants, like Ernest Withers.”

Mr. Withers most noted work was captured in 1968.  A snapshot of history many say helped reshape the Civil Rights Movement.  Andrew ‘RomeWithers was with his father when the iconic picture was captured.  A photo taken while on the frontline of danger.

“I got hit by police myself that day,” Withers recalled.  “I was 12 years old and I got maced in the eyes myself at 12 years old.”

It’s at the home in the Walker Estates community where Ernest Withers once lived, that has since been turned into an historic district.  

It was in 2016 when the Memphis City Council approved the long-standing home for historic preservation in an ongoing effort to protect the past.

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