Zoo-Tied Donors Gave to Hedgepeth Campaign


Memphis City Council member Reid Hedgepeth, a sponsor of the resolution to cede control of much of the Greensward to the Memphis Zoo, relied heavily on election-season campaign contributions from many with direct connections to the Memphis Zoo board.  

Hedgepeth is the council member responsible for bringing the Greensward issue to Memphis City Hall. 

After the Greensward issue exploded in January (after the zoo removed dozens of trees from the Greensward), Hedgepeth requested the issue placed on the council calendar.

He wanted clarification on the amount of public, council-approved funds go to both the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) and the Memphis Zoological Society (MZS), which operates the zoo for the city.

He said at the time that the zoo had control of the Greensward and pointed to Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade’s New Year’s Eve opinion on the matter that said the zoo did, indeed, have control of the property. That opinion remains contested and the zoo is seeking a final judgment on it from Shelby County Chancery Court.

During that January meeting, Hedgepeth decried the planting of trees during a weekend protest at the Greensward immediately preceding the council meeting. He said officials cannot allow Overton Park to become the “wild, wild west" and noted that the council had spent a lot of time on the Greensward issue.

Diane Smith, a co-chairman of the Memphis Zoo board, gave Hedgepeth $1,500 for his campaign last year, according to documents from the Shelby County Election Commission. Her husband, FedEx founder Fred Smith donated $1,500. The FedEx Political Action Committee gave Hedgepeth $5,000.

Richard Smith, son of Fred and Gail Smith and vice president of FedEx Global Trade, gave Hedgepeth $1,500. Allison Smith, who is listed on the campaign form as living at the same address as Richard Smith, gave Hedgepeth $1,000. Other FedEx employees gave Hedgepeth about $4,000.

Gail Schledwitz, wife of Karl Schledwitz, who is a zoo board member and chairman and CEO of Monogram Foods, gave Hedgepeth $1,500.

Spence Wilson, president of Kemmons Wilson Co., gave Hedgepeth $500. His wife, Rebecca Webb Wilson, is listed as an "honorary lifetime director" of the Memphis zoo board. Kemmons Wilson Jr., vice president of Kemmons Wilson Co. gave Hedgepeth $1,000. 

Bill Morrison, a city council member sponsoring the new Greensward resolution, serves as an ex-officio member of the Memphis Zoo as a council representative.

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