In 1981, it was a cornfield just outside Bishopville in Lee County, the poorest county in South Carolina. Today, it's a three-and-a-half acre garden that's visited by thousands. It's been featured in newspaper and magazine articles, and it's the subject of an award-winning documentary, A Man Named Pearl, which opens in Memphis at Malco's Ridgeway Four on January 25th.
Who is this man named Pearl? He's Pearl Fryar, the man who, with no formal training and next-to-no resources, single-handedly turned his home property into a showplace of wildly imaginative evergreen topiary. And all for what? So that Fryar could answer to the criticism he heard when he and his family moved to Bishopville: that black people don't keep up their yards. But Fryar showed Bishopville. Working at his garden alone, after 12-hour shifts inside a can factory, he eventually won the town's Yard of the Month award, the first African American to do so. He spelled it out for Bishopville too, on his lawn in flower-filled letters: "LOVE, PEACE & GOODWILL."
Fryar will be in Memphis spreading the same goodwill as guest speaker at the Memphis Botanic Garden on Thursday, January 24th. But he'll also be doing his part to serve this community as surely as he's served his own: by working with area schools as part of the Botanic Garden's mission to educate all Memphians. Here's your opportunity to serve too: by sponsoring local youth who would like to see A Man Named Pearl. Just call 576-4121 for more information.
Pearl Fryar Meet-and-Greet and Lecture, Memphis Botanic Garden, Thursday, January 24, 6 p.m. Cost: Botanic Garden admission price. Free for Botanic Garden members.