Thursday, February 13, 2003
Kemmons Wilson

Memphian Kemmons Wilson, the man who brought the world first the Holiday Inn chain and then later the Hampton Inn chain, has passed away. He was a Memphis institution. Besides making lots of money, he contributed generously to the community.

Way back when, my dad, whose name was Kenneth Wilson, would mistakely get the occasional call for Kemmons Wilson. He'd milk it for all it was worth. I don't recall if the two of them ever met, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Our family stayed at the original Holiday Inn on Summer Avenue in Memphis once. It was a trip to the Memphis Zoo. That site -- the Holiday Inn, not the Zoo -- was recently (within the past ten years) razed and replaced with a cut-rate funeral home.

(The Zoo and Overton Park are still blocking a straight shot of I-40 through Memphis. It's never been clear to me whether the objective was protecting the Zoo or protecting the homes of the rich white folks who lived near the Zoo. They certainly didn't not tear down lots of housing for lower income not-necessarily-white folks before they shut down the project. (Note to self: Get that photo of the Riviera-esque mural of workers shutting down I-95 through Cambridge that's on the back of what used to be the Stop-and-Shop up and online.))