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Transformer: John Elkington, BA’70, Revived Memphis’ Iconic Beale Street And Helped Bridge A Racial Divide

Jun. 8, 2013, 12:32 PM

Thirty years ago John Elkington stood near the Mississippi River and looked east down historic Beale Street. The legendary jazz district, where blues pioneers W.C. Handy, Muddy Waters and B.B. King once played uniquely American music, resembled a war zone. The iconic area had become a wasteland of abandoned and boarded-up buildings where trash littered otherwise empty streets full of sand.

Today, thanks largely to Elkington, Beale Street has been transformed into Memphis’ premier entertainment district and a top tourist destination, with 4.2 million visitors annually.


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