Close friend remembers Harold Buehler

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Controversial low-income housing developer Harold Buehler was found dead outside his home Sunday night.

Many area residents only knew Buehler as a developer of affordable housing in Memphis, but a longtime business associate, David Upton, said the community knew another side.

"People know him as Coach Buehler," Upton said.

Before Buehler built nearly 2,000 inner-city homes, he was a Memphis City Schools teacher and track coach.  Thirty-three years ago, track star Rochelle Stevens joined Buehler's track club, which took inner-city students all over the country.

"Because of Harold Buehler, I'm an Olympic gold medalist," Stevens said.

Stevens and Buehler were working to start an indoor track program, and Buehler helped some of her family members become homeowners, who originally couldn't afford it.

"If you didn't have all the money up front, Harold Buehler would work with those people," she said. "He had layaway plans, he had down payment plans, he had assistance plans and sometimes he just let you in."

Sunday night, Buehler's son found face-down on the patio steps of his home, after he spent much of the day working in his garden.

"Buehler grew up in North Memphis," Upton said. "His father was a professor at Le Moyne Owen college. So helping rebuild this neighborhood, and building houses instead of vacant lots in this neighborhood that he saw deteriorate was one of his proudest accomplishments."

Buehler's father was a civil rights activist who pastored a predominantly African American church in Douglas.
"He was a big guy with a big personality," Upton said. "He was always laughing, was always smiling, and that's what people will remember the most about him. I think."

Upton said Buehler's wife and two sons, who are all involved in the business, will keep it running.

Buehler had an injury on his head, but his family doesn't know the cause of death.  His memorial service has been scheduled for Friday at Memorial Park Funeral Home, from 3 to 8 p.m.

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