Mayor Herenton to resign July 10 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mayor Herenton to resign July 10

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced his resignation at a press conference Thursday morning at City Hall.

Herenton said his resignation would be effective July 10, 2009.

"I have immensely enjoyed serving the citizens of Memphis in this capacity for the past 18 years," Herenton said.

Click here to read Herenton's resignation letter.

Herenton, 69, the city's first elected black mayor, will face Rep. Steve Cohen, also a Democrat, in the August 2010 primary for the 9th District seat.

Herenton has been mayor 18 years and was city school superintendent for 12 years before that.

Memphis is majority black and Cohen, who was elected in 2006, is the city's first white member of Congress in more than three decades.

Herenton prefaced his announcement Thursday by quoting the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, saying "for everything, there is a season."

He said he will, for the interim, join his son Rodney at Herenton Capital Management while he canvasses the district, seeking support for a congressional run.

"I promised my son at some point I would join him in business," Herenton said.

As a parting gesture, Herenton shared a photo of himself as a young man raised in a Memphis housing project.  He hopes his photo that will hang at city hall will represent the diversity he brought to city government.

"Such that when African American children come to the Hall of Mayors they will have a sense of pride that someone who looked like them made a contribution," he said.

Herenton's resignation comes as federal investigators are questioning how he used excess money from a pricey annual Christmas party attended by prominent people in the business community, The Commercial Appeal has reported.

The newspaper has reported that the money, acknowledged by Herenton's lawyer, is being scrutinized by agents from the FBI and IRS as part of a long-running, multifaceted investigation.

Much of that probe has focused on a separate venture involving a $91,000 payment Herenton received while pushing a public plan to redevelop Greyhound's downtown property.

In recent months, however, FBI agents have been asking about the lavish Christmas Gala, a $1,000-a-plate party started in 1996 by a group of citizens and corporations. The FBI is investigating whether all the money given went to finance the party.

The newspaper found that the money was given to the mayor over about eight years.

Herenton's lawyer, Robert Spence, has said Herenton treated the money as income and filed appropriate federal income tax returns.

Under the city charter, city council chairman Myron Lowery will become the mayor pro tem until an election can be held, no later than 180 days after Herenton leaves office.

Herenton has a doctorate from Southern Illinois University and is a former Golden Gloves boxer.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


NAME: Willie W. Herenton

AGE-BIRTHDAY: 69; April 23, 1940

EDUCATION: Graduate of LeMoyne Owen College and the University of Memphis. Earned a doctorate from Southern Illinois University.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: The longest serving mayor in Memphis history with five consecutive terms. Defeated a popular white incumbent in a close mayoral race in 1991 to become the first black mayor to be elected in Memphis. Served 12 years as superintendent of city schools. Former Golden Gloves boxer.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  The AP contributed to this story.

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