Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: A community man

William Thomas Mitchell during the party celebrating his 80th birthday.
William Thomas Mitchell during the party celebrating his 80th birthday.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Anyone can help unify and protect whole neighborhoods - even a man without a home address.  A recent street-side birthday bash for an 80-year-old south Memphis man had people celebrating and Taking Back Our Neighborhoods!

The birthday party/cook-out rocked Mallory and Latham, right next to a MAPCO service station.  Jimmy Lamb invited the whole neighborhood to his machine shop to celebrate William Thomas Mitchell's 80th birthday.

"Make me think I'm a celebrity," Mitchell said. "I should have been Elvis Presley or something that way he's doing me."

"He just likes friends," Lamb replied. "He loves people, and I just love to talk to him because he's got a lot of history."

Mitchell has made it his business to meet everyone in his neighborhood.

"They are mega-people," he said. "This man and his wife run a little shop, and every time I go up there, man, they have a smile on their face."

Mitchell was referring to Minor Massey, who owns an auto body repair business.

"He's a character up and down, but he's a real nice person as far as I know," Massey said. "He takes care of the scrap yard around the corner."

In fact, the closest thing Mitchell has to an address is Southside Auto Parts and Salvage, where he serves a night watchman. After a series of scrap yard break-ins, Mitchell came on duty, and the business has been crime-free ever since.

"I don't like crime," Mitchell said. "I'll just say it like that.  I don't like crime."

A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School class of 1946, Mitchell, who is a trained mechanic, raised 10 children along with his wife. When she died several years ago, he hit the streets, becoming a one man neighborhood watch and a friend among friends:

"I'm not homeless," he said. "No, I could go anywhere I want. I got daughters; they want me to go live with them. I don't need to go anywhere with anybody. I'm a loner, like I say."

Indeed, if you count friends for riches, William Thomas Mitchell is a wealthy man, indeed.