A Love Letter to Memphis: Jarvis Greer

A Love Letter to Memphis: Jarvis Greer

The question is, “Why do I Love Memphis?”

It’s simple. Because MEMPHIS IS ME. As a matter of fact, you can’t spell Memphis without ME!

Jarvis Greer -- Memphis 200

This is my hometown. Born in Binghampton. Grew up about a couple of miles from this station, my work home for the last 40 years, WMC Action News 5.

I had the great fortune of attending a lot of different grade schools in the city, which helped me get a handle on what a lot of my fellow Memphians think, and why they think it. From St. Augustine, a Black Catholic elementary next to LeMoyne-Owen that closed for lack of funding when I was in the second grade, to Immaculate Conception, the exact opposite in just about every way.

Jarvis Greer at WMC Action News 5 circa 1979.
Jarvis Greer at WMC Action News 5 circa 1979.

That was third through the fifth, and it came during the height of the Civil Rights movement when white people couldn’t figure out quite what to make of upwardly mobile black folk. I could see it in their kids, even in third grade. These kids didn’t know hate. They learned it.

Next, there was Harding Academy for sixth grade and my first time to play football. They didn’t mess with me, but they did my sister. Anybody remember Maywood? The end-of-the-year class party was supposed to be there. It was, but we weren’t allowed to go. Spent that day with some kind classmates who took us in while everybody else played splish-splash in a park that’s now closed. It was a learning experience.

I attended seventh and eighth grade at St. Louis School. It was a great education in all facets. Lot of things you learn when you’re one of the only African American children there. Father Jim Pugh and the nuns did their best to include us and urged the rest to open their young minds to people who might not look exactly like they do, despite what they might hear at home. I never will forget it or them.

You might say at this point, “This guy says he loves Memphis?" Yes, I do, with all my heart. Because the people I met along the way were mostly kind and curious and wanting to help.

Jarvis Greer and No. 1 Grizzlies fan Sallie Diggs in 2017.
Jarvis Greer and No. 1 Grizzlies fan Sallie Diggs in 2017.

The ones across the tracks from me, they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and most wanted to learn from me and me from them. I guess that’s partly why I got into communication, because that’s the only way we can learn about each other.

Now, the good stuff. I grew up on blues, WDIA and barbecue We’d go to Satellite Records next to STAX where we used the watch the session musicians, Booker T. and the MG’s, Isaac Hayes and the Bar Kays go to work while we bought our 45s. We saw Al Green, Albert King, BB King to name a few. Even saw Elvis putting up his Christmas decorations at Graceland while going to Southland Mall.

Really! It wasn’t a thing then. Just everyday life.

There were late afternoon trips down to the river to watch the barges go by, late night trips to the airport to watch the planes come in. Thornton’s Donuts made fresh at midnight on Lamar... The Mid-South Fair... ”Do you want to go Faster?” The Pippin, Tilt-a-Whirl and the bumper cars at the fairgrounds...

And, of course, my beloved Tigers for which I fulfilled a childhood dream when I got to play. In high school I played against All-Americans Eric Harris and All-Stars Keith Simpson and Lucky Lloyd Patterson.

Jarvis Greer and Grizzlies fans during the 2015 NBA playoffs.
Jarvis Greer and Grizzlies fans during the 2015 NBA playoffs.

Larry Finch was a personal friend of our family. I saw him score a school record 48 at the Mid-South Coliseum. So was Ronnie Robinson. Their decision to stay at Memphis when others were telling them to leave helped changed the university and this city for the better.

I put the “NBA Now” sign in our yard in Cordova. We’ve been season ticket holders to the Griz since they’ve been here.

I live downtown now and love it! It’s funky, vibrant, diverse, alive!

My kids are Memphis grads. My wife has her master’s from Memphis and now helps raise money for one of the world’s greatest charities, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The weather is hot and humid. “Sweat rag, please!” And when it’s cold it’s just for a short time. Just right, if you ask me.

You can get anywhere from the airport AND you can always come back home.

This place is in my blood and it grows on most all who come here. I’ve been lucky enough to travel, but there’s one thing I think you’ll see.

You can’t take the ME out of Memphis, and you can’t take the Memphis out of ME!

Jarvo

Find more love letters, stories and photos at wmcactionnews5.com/memphis200.

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