South Memphis residents reflect on mayor's legacy - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

South Memphis residents reflect on mayor's legacy

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton resignation will take effect in just over a week, when he begins to focus his energy on a 9th district Congressional run.

For 18 years, Herenton led the City of Memphis from a seventh floor office overlooking the mighty Mississippi River.

But the city's first African American mayor came from humble beginnings.

Life for Willie Herenton began in 1940 in a South Memphis housing project. He lived off of a little alley at Barton and Crump.
Vicki Hill, who resides in that neighborhood, says Herenton is a role model for kids growing up there now.

"So they can have a better life. He did it, they can do it, too," she said. "Put the guns down. Have peace of mind."

But neighbors have mixed reactions to Herenton's resignation. Hill says she wishes the mayor would stay in office.

But neighbor Mario Baker says he's glad to see Herenton running for Congress. 

"I think it's a good thing because he's going to a higher position," he said.

They say the mayor's persona through the years captures the ways of the old neighborhood.

"A lot of people get up there, and they act a certain way and they change the way they talk and the way they act," said Baker. "Mayor Herenton speaks like where he was from."

Hill says she believes Memphians should be more appreciative of Herenton's accomplishments while in office.

"It's a lot of Herenton haters out here, which I don't see why because he's done a lot to improve the city. They should be glad to see this man," she said. "You couldn't walk Downtown, right? Now you can walk downtown at night. It has really improved to me."

Baker says the mayor was not being divisive when he made the controversial statement that African American males need to see a fellow African American in the 9th Congressional District seat.

"I see it as he's saying that...that more African American males need to step up and go for things as mayor and Congress," he said.

The election commission has set the wheels in motion for a special election to replace the mayor. His seat is not officially vacated until the council passes a resolution.
They won't be able to vote until their next meeting on July 7.


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