Many people know Memphis as the cradle of Rock n’ Roll and the site where Dr.King’s life tragically ended. Some recall that E.H. Crump was a famous big city boss who controlled the city for the first half of the 20th century. But the work of three extraordinary Memphians who overcame the all-encompassing power of the Crump machine is a hidden gem of Memphis History.
Citizens Not Subjects! brings to life the remarkable story of the Crump machine and the exceptional personalities and acts of three legendary Memphians for new generations of voters and students. It has national relevance as a cautionary tale of how precious and fragile our democracy can be, now just as much as then, and how desperately it depends upon an informed and active citizenry for its very survival.
Ed Meeman, editor of the Memphis Press Scimitar, was the first voice to point to the dangers of citizens abdicating their democratic rights, even under a seemingly benevolent dictatorship. He was later teamed with Lucius Burch, a public-spirited attorney, and Edmund Orgill, a respected businessman, in a movement to restore participatory democracy to Memphis.
To the amazement of many, they were successful, first with Estes Kefauver’s senatorial victory in 1948, and then with Orgill’s election as mayor in 1955. Their efforts helped usher Memphis into the modern age of democracy by waking people up to the realization that a constant and spirited dialogue on civic issues is a vital ingredient in creating a vibrant and growing city.