Politics » Politics Feature

Past, Present, Future

Some thoughts generated over the Memorial Day weekend.



As July 1st, the formal merger date of Shelby County's formerly separate city and county school systems, nears, it is more apparent than ever that no true unification is possible. Freshly armed with refurbished legislative and gubernatorial authority, the suburban municipalities are well on their way to the creation of separate municipal school districts a year from now.

Issues remain, however, including the unresolved matter of the terms governing the new districts' use of existing school infrastructure, the possible overlapping of the municipalities' jurisdiction in unincorporated areas with that of the Unified district, and the fact of continuing litigation over issues including what a majority of the Shelby County Commission sees as potential resegregation.

David Pickler of SCS(r) with Martavius Jones of MCS as co-chairs of a Trasition Planning Commission committee
  • David Pickler of SCS(r) with Martavius Jones of MCS as co-chairs of a Trasition Planning Commission committee
Looking back over the two-and-a-half stormy years that have led to this point after the decision by a Memphis City Schools board majority's decision to surrender the MCS charter, one of the principals in the matter, Unified School Board member David Pickler, who had for years been chairman of the old Shelby County Schools board, recently reflected on one key aspect of the matter.

As Pickler saw it, the "one slim chance" that the suburbs might have been brought to accept unification was lost when disagreement on the Unified Board last year prevented the hiring as permanent superintendent of former SCS head John Aitken. Pickler saw the separate nature of the six pending municipal districts as essentially a temporary condition, yielding "within five years" to a de facto consortium with geographical outlines similar to, if not identical to, the erstwhile SCS.

And who in Pickler's opinion might eventually head that consortium or hold some position within it as a liaison to the Unified District? John Aitken.

• The weekend's Memorial Day events were appropriately numerous. One of the more significant — and different — was the Celebration of Life at the Levitt Shell, an annual event founded by Stevie Moore and sponsored by Moore's organization FFUN (Freedom from Unnecessary Negatives).

This year's event marked the 10th anniversary of the shooting death of Prentice Moore, the founder's son and the inspiration for FFUN, the purpose of which is to raise consciousness in the inner city on the issues of crime, gangs, and random street violence. Numerous local officials, including Mayors A C Wharton and Mark Luttrell and 9th District U.S. representative Steve Cohen, have lent their support to FFUN and praised it for its efforts.

As the anagrammatic name for the organization suggests, FFUN attempts to interpose more than mere moral judgment against the specter of violence; it offers recreational activities and a sense of community purpose. Monday's event, for example, provided live music and games. Moore, a veteran of the streets himself turned activist and entrepreneur, is a genuinely sunny presence who is increasingly visible at the city's civic, social, and political events.

Future FFUN activities include: • A "Live in Peace" conference and symposium on June 3rd, concentrating on intervention methods at the Bickford Community Center, 233 Henry; • A forum on crime at St. John's Episcopal Church, 3245 Central, on June 5th; • A "Live in Peace Impact Rally" on June 8th at the Convention Center.

• I was out of town on assignment week before last when funeral rites were held at Second Presbyterian Church for Louise Baker Housholder, my first cousin and a long-standing grace on the city's civic scene, though my son Marcus was there to represent me. Her surviving husband, Dr. Charles Housholder, is a distinguished pediatrician who, in his many decades of practice, has administered to me, my siblings, and to our offspring.

Other than to publicly register my own farewell, my purpose in noting the passing of Louise here, where the death of many a political figure has been commented on, is to recall a conversation we had some years ago after I had addressed a club to which she belonged. I had made fond mention of her late father, my uncle, Dr. Edwin L. Baker, who for many years was superintendent of Western State Hospital at Bolivar, and the nutshell of our conversation was her lament over the negative impact of partisan politics on mental health then and now, an issue she took seriously.

Indeed. And I have always been pleased, when passing by the hospital grounds on Highway 64, to note that one of two main thoroughfares entering the place is named for my uncle. The other, incidentally, is named for a subsequent superintendent, Dr. Morris Cohen, father of 9th District congressman Steve Cohen.

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