E.H. Crump couldn't speak in public. The minute he found himself standing in front of a large crowd his immense personal charm dried up and he froze. It's possible that that defect -- which would kill the average Joe's political aspirations -- is the very thing that made Crump so very powerful. His blazing red hair, worn long by the day's standards, was unforgettable, and his ability to work small crowds and assemble political networks was legendary. In the early decades of the 20th century, Crump was Memphis' definitive political force, and G. Wayne Dowdy, the senior librarian for the Memphis Public Library's history department, has documented the career of the fabled mayor and king maker. Dowdy will read excerpts from and sign copies of his book Mayor Crump Don't Like It: Machine Politics in Memphis on Friday, July 14th, at the Central Library on Poplar.
"Boss" Crump migrated to Memphis as a young man with no more than a quarter in his pocket, during an era of dirty politics when poll taxes and free barbecue were used to manipulate the African-American vote. The man responsible for the development of the Memphis fire department, annual vehicle inspection, and the near elimination of the mayor's office in favor of a city manager rose to power at a time when Memphis' murder rate was soaring and prostitutes owned the nighttime streets ... kinda like today. And while you can say plenty of bad things about Crump, you have to admire the boss man's unwillingness to support Tennessee's 1909 ban on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. As any pol can certainly tell you, there can be no machine politics without strong constituent services.
Booksigning by G. Wayne Dowdy, Friday, July 14th, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Central Library