Herenton to return to City Hall - in portrait - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Herenton to return to City Hall - in portrait

Dr. Willie Herenton Dr. Willie Herenton

(WMC-TV) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is on his way back to City Hall.

Tuesday, the portraits in the Hall of Mayors at Memphis City Hall were adjusted to make room for the image of Herenton, Memphis' longest running and first elected African American mayor.

"When this portrait is unveiled and children go in there, they will see diversity, and I'm proud of that," Herenton said Tuesday.

With that, Herenton will find himself first in another category: the only African American to have a portrait in the Memphis Hall of Mayors.

"I hope someday we break the barrier of gender," he said. "I hope someday there is a woman who will serve as the mayor of this great city."

Herenton will join 31 other mayors in the Hall, on the south wall. The exact date of the unveiling of his portrait has not been released, though it should be around the end of September.

Until then, the portrait will remain unseen.

"It's not an unveiling of the portrait for me personally," Herenton said. "It symbolizes the hope, the aspirations, the dreams of many African Americans for many years."

Herenton hopes people will not just see his image, but they will see the downtown renaissance, the renovation of dilapidated housing projects, his personal quest to pursue higher education and the evolution of the Bluff City.

"I grew up when Memphis was racially segregated by law, and the thought of an African American being elected to the office of mayor for the City of Memphis was unthinkable," he said.

When all is said and done, it is believed that Larry Walker of the Larry Walker Art Studio will make history as well, as the first African American to paint a portrait for the Hall of Mayors.

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