At a press conference in the Hall of Mayors in City Hall, Herenton, 69, confirmed what he said himself has been clear for a long time.
I lost my zeal," he said. "I'm the kind of guy, I got to climb mountains. This was getting routine."
Herenton framed his legacy as a child of wedlock, born in the public housing projects, who became school superintendent and, in 1991, the first elected black mayor of Memphis. He made it clear that his legacy will be the foundation of his campaign for the 9th Congressional District seat in 2010 in a race against incumbent congressman Steve Cohen.
In the meantime, he will join his son Rodney in business working with the private sector and government entities. He said he rejected pleas to remain as mayor while he campaigns for Congress because he feels that is wrong. He made only a brief reference to the ongoing federal investigation of his real estate dealings, calling himself "a victim" and saying reporters are obsessed with the story.
He said he is leaving the city with $89 million in reserves and thousands of units of new housing that have replaced most of the old housing projects. He said he brought a diverse assemblage of black and white people into city government.
"When you come to City Hall today, there are so many black people they're running over each other," he said.
City Council Chairman Myron Lowery will become interim mayor for up to 180 days, during which time a special election will be held. Lowery said he will be a candidate.