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Veteran Journalist Otis Sanford To Sign "From Boss Crump To King Willie" Tonight At Square Books

Panola County native and Ole Miss graduate Otis Sanford will discuss and sign his new book, “From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Change Memphis Politics,” on Monday, April 3, at Square Books on the Square in Oxford from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“From Boss Crump to King Willie,” published by University of Tennessee Press, offers an in-depth look at the vital role that race played in the political evolution of Memphis, from the rise of longtime political boss and Mississippi native Edward Hull Crump to the election of Dr. Willie Herenton as the city’s first black mayor. Filled with vivid details on the workings of municipal politics, this accessible account explores the nearly century-long struggle by African Americans in Memphis to secure recognition and gain a viable voice in the city’s affairs.
Charles Crawford, Professor of History at the University of Memphis said, “Otis Sanford’s ‘From Boss Crump to King Willie’ provides the best understanding of this aspect of Memphis’ history and will be required reading for students, scholars and anyone who wants a lucid, readable account of the city’s past experiences.”
Sanford, a graduate of North Panola High School and the University of Mississippi, explains that African Americans in Memphis, many of whom migrated to Memphis from plantations in Mississippi, overwhelmingly supported the Crump organization because he, at least, listened to some of their concerns. The book probes Crump’s hot-and-cold relationship with local newspaper editors, some of whom castigated his machine politics.
The book goes on to explore the political vacuum left in the wake of Crump’s 1954 death. But then, some 25 years later, a well-educated native son, Dr. Willie Herenton, emerged as the leader that the black community had long hoped for. Herenton proved to be the right man at the right time to eventually make racial and political history in the city.
The book also focuses on how politicians from Crump to Herenton recognized the power of the African American vote.


The book is a culmination of four years of research and includes interviews with key figures prominent in the political evolution of Memphis, including Dr. Herenton, former Federal Prosecutor Mike Cody, former Mayor Dick Hackett, former City Councilman Fred Davis, retired Federal Judge Harry Wellford, political activist Miriam DeCosta Willis, and former Memphis Police Director Buddy Chapman. The book is currently on sale through utpress.org or by calling 1-800-621-2736. To schedule a discussion with the author and book signing, call 1-901-495-5572.


Otis Sanford holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic/Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis. He also serves as the political commentator for WREG-TV in Memphis. A former managing editor and current political columnist at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, he also worked for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, the Pittsburgh Press, and the Detroit Free Press. He was inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame in 2014.


For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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