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Patrick P Stafford

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Living & Working in Memphis, Tennessee
By Patrick P Stafford   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, July 01, 2004
Posted: Thursday, July 01, 2004

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Memphis, Tennessee is one great, sprawling metropolis, filled with great sites and activities to see and do, and a job market and beautiful lifestyle second to none!

Deep in the “Land of Cotton” and heart of Tennessee is Memphis--the
claimed birthplace of blues music and ever-famous home of Elvis Presley,
reputed King of Rock & Roll.

It is also considered the center of southern hospitality and fine
southern cooking (barbecue capital of the world!), and is strategically
located along the banks of the magnificent Mississippi River where, like
its neighbor to the south--New Orleans--a mixed culture of ethnicity,
festive events and dynamic business interests harmoniously thrive and

About 313 square miles in area and with 1,093,427 residents (826,330 in
Shelby County), metropolitan Memphis in population is 18th largest among
U. S. cities, with blacks numbering 47.8% and Whites and others
balancing out the city’s demographics.

Both the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the United
States experienced the same population gain of 8.55% in the 1990’s.
Due largely to new housing, expansion in business and industry and an
increase in tourism and improved government services, this growth
in people and quality living was the same for year 2000.

At least for the immediate future this upward growth is expected to
continue, while at the same time the City of Memphis plans on becoming
even a better place in which to live and work.

A little history

Memphis, like much of the Tennessee region, was occupied by native
Americans before Spanish explorers came in 1541 to settle the region.
Spain controlled the area until the French came in 1739 and built Fort
Assumption on the Memphis site.

Both nations haggled over the territory until 1797 when it was seized by
the United States. In 1818 the Chickasaw Nation signed a treaty ceding
all of West Tennessee to the U.S. and in 1819 John Overton, James
Winchester, and Andrew Jackson found the city of Memphis on May 22
and formed Shelby County.

The city was incorporated on December 19, 1826 and a year later the
county seat was moved from Memphis to Raleigh. In 1850 Memphis and the
City of South Memphis merged and by 1857 The Memphis & Charleston
Railroad was completed, linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi

The city was heavily involved in the American Civil War and on June 6,
1862 an Union fleet defeated Confederate naval forces in the Battle of
Memphis. Federal troops immediately occupied the city and in 1863
General Grant made Memphis a hospital and supply base for the remainder
of the war.

After war’s end The Memphis Freedmen's Bureau was established to provide
services such as banking and education, and in 1867 Memphis regained the
county seat.

Two devastating events hit the city during the 1870’s: a yellow fever
epidemic that claimed 5,000 lives; and in 1879 when Memphis declared
bankruptcy then lost its charter and became a taxing district of the

During the 1890’s Memphis became a solvent and bustling metropolis with
the opening of the Great Bridge in 1892 (now Frisco Bridge), the first
public library in 1893, the first skyscraper in 1895 (Porter Building),
and the Church's Park & Auditorium in 1899, the city's first park and
entertainment center for African Americans.

By 1916 Memphis regained its city charter, had a zoo and a commission
form of government, the presence of a major university, and had opened
its first Piggly Wiggly store. A local artist, W. C. Handy, also wrote
the famous song "Memphis Blues."

Over the next thirty years new business and people moved to Memphis and
by 1943, during the Second World War, The Naval Air Station at
Millington, The Army (now Defense) Depot and the Mallory Air Force Depot
were built.

In 1948 Memphis Harbor construction project began and in the 1950s the
city was named the country's quietest, cleanest and safest city on
several occasions. During this time the city’s first Holiday Inn
opened, Elvis Presley gave his first concert, and Stax Records, creator
of the "Memphis Sound," was created.

By the end of the 1960s the decade saw Federal court decisions ending
segregation in the city's public schools, libraries and recreation
facilities; and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on
Apri1 4, 1968.

The 1970’s saw three significant events: the city’s largest company,
Federal Express Corporation, opened for business; to achieve complete
racial integration, school busing began; and Memphis’ most famous
citizen, Elvis Presley, died at his Graceland home on August 16,

A lot has happened to Memphis since the King’s passing. His home is now
a shrine and museum and receives tens of thousands of visitors each
year. In 1991 the National Civil Rights Museum was opened and Dr. W. W.
Herenton became the city’s first black mayor.

In 1993 the downtown trolley began operating. With it new money and
business came to town and government officials and private entrepreneurs
continued the process of renovating and redeveloping Memphis into a city
to be reckoned with.

As thousands of new jobs and new people arrived, they and the byproducts
of their optimistic and opportunistic presence became and still remain
integral to the economic success and positive growth Memphis has
experienced and should throughout the new millennium.


With an average relative humidity of 69%, Memphis and the State of
Tennessee is not unlike most of the American South when it comes to
humid summer days and an occasional tropical storm.

Otherwise the city enjoys a fairly temperate climate, with average
summer temperatures at 81 degrees Fahrenheit and a 41-degree average
during winter. Overall, the annual temperature is 62 degrees, with an
average rainfall of 49 inches, and snowfall of 5.3 inches.

The elevation in Memphis is 331 feet.


With an unemployment rate of 3.7%, below Tennessee’s 4.2% and the
nation’s 4.5% rates, evidently Memphis is a great place to work and earn
a living.

Its largest employer, Federal Express, currently employs over 29,500
workers. The U.S. Government and Memphis Board of Education follow with
approximately 14,860 and 14,000 employees each, respectively.

In order, other major employers in Memphis are Methodist Health Systems,
Shelby County Government, Memphis City Government, Baptist Memorial
Hospitals, AutoZone, Kroger Company, University of Tennessee at Memphis,
Shelby County Board of Education, the Tennessee State Government, and

In addition to the city’s occupational diversity, Memphis jobs also pay
pretty darn well. The current adjusted per capita income for resident
workers is approximately $22,674; and $26,277 for the County of Shelby.
And in 1998, 7,300 new jobs were established in Memphis and in Shelby

Major industries or job markets in Memphis are trade (25.0%), services
(29.0%), government jobs (14.0%), transportation, communication and
public utilities (12.0%), and manufacturing and construction jobs with
11.0% of the workforce.

And, with over 190 hospitals, healthcare and treatment centers and
organizations, Memphis employs approximately 2,643 physicians, 9,734
registered nurses, 641 dentists and thousands more in the medical and
healthcare industries.

When the 28,100-plus workforce employed in finance, insurance and real
estate is added to this figure, it becomes clear that Memphis has become
one of the best cities in the Southern U.S. to find a good paying job,
start a career or advance up the promotion ladder.

One other source worth mentioning and which is adding to Memphis’
prospering economy is the Memphis Shelby County Airport. Since 1992 it
has provided the number one air cargo service in the world and is
planning to expand its operations and facilities for both commercial
flights and air cargo within the next few years.

Setting down roots

Memphis neighborhoods help make urban and suburban living a friendly
pastime, and is where southern hospitality exists hand-in-hand with
big-city amenities, cultural events, and attractive real estate.

>From many corners of the city its friendly neighborhoods and parks
provide comfortable views of the Mississippi River. This includes even
the central business district where nice homes sit next to canopies of
trees and not far from the sprawling stretches of farmland and mingling
forest that cover the opposite bank.

Whether on a budget or not, one should be able to find affordable
housing in Memphis most anytime of the year. Without considering size,
the average price for homes in Memphis’ six main districts are: $99,484
in East Memphis, $86,025 in Midtown, $213,162 in Germantown, $182,863 in
Collierville and $141,494 in medium-priced Cordova.

Some current listings of decent, lower-priced homes can be found online
and in local publications. A sampling of these are a 1000 square-foot,
two-bedroom, one-bath house in Harbortown (near downtown Memphis)
selling for $14,900; a two-bedroom, one bath home for $9,900 on the
Northside; and a two-bedroom, one and a half bath single-story house for
$17,900 in the Douglass Park/Warford district.

One of Memphis’ nicest neighborhoods is the Millington area. Another is
Germantown, where many upscale shopping centers are located and business
and industrial concerns are only a few minutes away. Most homes in
these neighborhoods can be spendy, with prices usually starting at
$180,000 for a two- or three-bedroom house.

The rental market in Memphis is presently doing quite well, and a good
number of rental apartments, condos and single and family dwelling homes
can be found at affordable prices. After two consecutive years of
decline apartment development in the Memphis area increased and should
continue in 2001 where 3,400 new units are projected to be built.

The average street rent for Memphis area apartments at the end of 1999
was $583 per month, up 1.3 percent from a year earlier. This is
expected to also continue rising in 2001, but only marginally, and
depending on how much interest rates increase nationally.

In the last three years the overall crime rate has dropped 17% and, with
52 fire stations and over 1,800 uniformed police covering several major
precincts, government services in Memphis are quite good, and also
include an excellent public school system.

The Memphis school system consists of over 50 public schools, of grades
K through 12, and many more schools throughout Shelby County. The
curriculum is considered one of the best in the nation and students must
undergo standardized testing before graduation.

There are also a good number of colleges within the Memphis area
providing graduate and post-graduate degrees in many disciplines and
occupations. Some of its preeminent universities are Bethel College,
Christian Brothers University, Memphis College of Art, Southwest
Tennessee Community College, Rhodes College, Mid-America Baptist
Theological Seminary, Baptist College of Health Sciences and the
University of Memphis.

The University of Memphis awards 15 bachelor degrees in at least 50
majors, and master's and doctoral degrees in numerous subjects and
disciplines. With over 20,000 students enrolled, Memphis University is
one of the largest in the region, with nearly 200 buildings occupying
1,160 acres at four sites.

City parks number 183 and offer over 6000 acres of recreational areas,
facilities and sporting and children play fields. These include 18
public swimming pools, 72 tennis courts, 34 walking trails, 56
baseball/softball fields, 81 basketball courts and 35 soccer and
football fields that are available for visitors and family residents all

One great park to relax and enjoy the sights is Mud Island River Park.
It features the Mississippi River Walk, a beach, the famous World War II
Memphis Belle, a 5,000-seat amphitheater, numerous restaurants and gift
shops and the Mississippi River Museum. It’s address is 125 North Front
Street and is pretty hard to miss: it sits alongside a huge river called
the Mississippi.


While visiting or living in Memphis it’s pretty difficult to go hungry
and not find quality food and exciting shopping. Restaurants serving
Italian, Southern, American, and seafood can be found most everywhere,
and some where the King of Rock & Roll used to dine.

Great Southern style cooking can be found at The Cupboard, Marmalade
Restaurant & Lounge, and The Little Tea Shop. For finger-licking
barbecue entrees, hungry tourists should try the Pig-N-Whistle, Neely's
Bar-B-Que and the Rendezvous restaurant.

Memphis also offers a number of fine deli and coffeehouse establishments
including the Young Avenue Deli, Otherlands Exotic Coffee Bar & Gifts
and Café Expresso. For steak or seafood, there are Buckley’s Downtown
Grill, The Butcher Shop and the Side Street Grill or Landry’s Seafood
House and Anderton’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant.

For a broad selection of popular spirits and variety of barbecue and
Cajun dishes at affordable prices the Rum Boogie Cafe Restaurant on
Beale Street is a great choice. Some of its specialties are the Cajun
red beans and rice for $7.95 (half plate), fried catfish dinner for
$11.95, barbecue shoulder sandwich for $6.50 and desserts like the nutty
fudge brownie and pecan pie for $3.50 each. Also offered: southern
hospitality, casual atmosphere and prized music memorabilia.

For the best in Cajun-style food the Bayou Bar & Grill is a great site.
One or many can enjoy lunch, dinner or stay till the wee hours for
drinks and entertainment. The Blackened Catfish dinner for $8.95, a
Cajun classic served with sweet potatoes and spicy corn; or Cajun Shrimp
Jacuzzi for $10.95, a shrimp, scallop and crab casserole baked in a rich
seafood sauce are two menu specialties especially made to salivate the

Looking for nightlife and something to do when evening rolls in? Well
Memphis is filled to the gills with clubs playing great blues and other
music. It is also overflowing with pubs, microbreweries, sports bars,
disco and live entertainment spots that also include dancing, Karaoke,
Latin/salsa events and sophisticated piano bar entertainment.

Some very popular evening spots in Memphis and Shelby County are: The
Blue Monkey, Denim & Diamonds, Alfreds, Blues City Café, Flying Saucer
Draught Emporium, Banks Sportsman Bar & Grill, Molly’s La Casita, Café
Apocalypse, Silky O'Sullivan, and The Cockeyed Camel.

Memphis has everything to ask for in shopping--from department store
chains to souvenir shops and specialty boutiques. For everyday
merchandise as well as special holiday gift items, shopping in Memphis
offers a multitude of opportunities. And tourists and local shoppers
should know: the city’s total retail sales for 1997 alone was over $10

For the best and largest shopping areas, there are Laurelwood Shopping
Center, the Mall of Memphis, the Poplar Plaza Shopping Center, The
Regalia, Raleigh Springs Mall, and the Belz Factory Outlet Mall. Some
great bargain shopping can be found at these retail centers as well as
at Whitehaven Plaza and the Southland Mall.

Memphis also offers a number of retail and specialty shops full of
bargain-priced clothing and merchandise items. Some of the most popular
are Carabella's, Harbor Town Gift and Garden, Bella Notte, The Village
Boutique, Memphis Music, Cook & Love Shoes, Market Central, Y-Not and
Hollywood Designs.

For the athletic-minded and those needing a good workout or regimen of
health-related products or treatment some places to try are the Peabody
Athletic Club, Gateway Sports Bar, Cordova Athletic Club, French Riviera
Spas, the Hope & Healing Center, Wimbleton Sportsplex and a number of
YMCA centers.

...and soul

“Memphis is a city of churches” so the popular saying goes, and
naturally the religious community has played a vital role in the city’s
growth and development. Baptist, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish are
major faiths, and 50 other denominations have churches in the Memphis

A number of church denominations also have international headquarters in
Memphis. One of these is the Church of God in Christ. Named after
church founder, Bishop C. H. Mason, its Mason Temple facility is where
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his last inspired sermon in Memphis.

The First Baptist Beale Street Church is another religious landmark. It
was the largest Black Baptist Church in 1889 where famous Ida B. Wells
published the Free Speech and Headlight newspaper, out of the church's
basement and championed the era’s anti-lynching movement.

Another great sight for religious eyes is the East Trigg Baptist Church.
Some of the greatest gospel singing every heard has graced its halls and
often included notable white singers, one of them being Elvis Aaron


The whole family can experience a host of great attractions and
activities in Memphis. One can golf, hike, bike, take guided tours or
go for a balloon ride when they’re not visiting Elvis’ famous home,
Graceland--the second most visited house in the country, behind the
White House in Washington, D.C.

And there is a long list of unique sites open year-round for those who
like to just look as well as participate. Alex Haley's Home, Beale
Street, and the W.C. Handy Home are great for sightseeing. There is
also family fun to be had at the Memphis Zoo and the Libertyland
Amusement Park.

Beale Street is perhaps the best place to listen to music in Memphis,
which many consider the birthplace of both blues music and Rock & Roll.
Horse-drawn tours and other transportation are available and one can
take in all the scenery of historic Downtown Memphis, the Hunt-Phelan
Home, Beale Street mansions, as well as of the mighty Mississippi.

There is also the Memphis Botanic Garden, one of the finest botanic
gardens in the country; the Memphis Queen Line Riverboats, the only
riverboat excursion company in the Memphis area; and Bogey's Golf and
Family Entertainment Center, where both children and adults can enjoy
go-carts, bumper boats, batting cages, 36 holes of miniature golf,
children's rides and a video arcade.

Then there is the Lichterman Nature Center, a natural habitat that
includes a 65-acre environmental educational facility and wildlife
sanctuary. And lastly, the Memphis Pink Palace Museum & Planetarium
that features Mid-South regional history exhibitions, a life-sized
dinosaur, and a first-rate planetarium.

Memphis libraries are plentiful with 23 branches serving Memphis and
Shelby County. And there are also many area bookstores offering the
best selections in textbooks, educational materials, old and new books
as well as special volumes and out-of-print, hard-to-find books.
Tiger Book Store, Sidewalk University book store, B Dalton Bookseller,
Brentanos and Inner Man Bingo are some good ones.

Memphis is famous for its landmarks and historical architecture and has
a number of fine museums and art centers providing interesting exhibits
and education tours for the entire family. One of these is the Brooks
Museum of Art. It is the oldest and largest fine arts museum in the
state of Tennessee and houses one of the most best collections of fine
art dating from antiquity to the present.

Another is the National Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine
Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It offers an
exhibit of the world's first and foremost overview of the civil rights
movement in the United States.

Other great museums and cultural centers to visit in Memphis are the
Children’s Museum of Memphis, Chucalissa Archaeological Museum, Magevney
House, and the Sharpe Planetarium.

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Mid-South Coliseum and Tim McCarver
Stadium are three of the city’s largest sporting venues. College
football’s Liberty Bowl game is played every year and features two of
the league’s best championship school teams for that season.

Memphis is home to a number of semi-professional sports teams including
teams for baseball, hockey and basketball.

For theater and performing arts there is an amazing blend of artistic
expressions that reflect the cultural dynamics of the city's heritage as
well as the people that have added their talents and traditions to the
local landscape.

Ballet Memphis is a full-scale professional company that has made
Memphis where the best in dancing can be enjoyed. The troupe consists
of national and international competition-winning dancers,
choreographers and designers, and performs at the historic Orpheum

The Lindenwood Concerts is celebrating its 21st anniversary season and
is a professional concert series that showcases eight concerts each
season, featuring a number of nationally and internationally known
musicians. Some past entertainers have been the U.S. Marine Band,
Vienna Choir Boys, and many other headliners.

The acclaimed Memphis Symphony Orchestra performs classical masterworks,
jazz, popular music and chamber music and presents several outdoor
concerts each season.

There is also Opera Memphis, which performs at The University of
Memphis. It plans to offer full-scale, main-stage productions of La
Traviata, Carmen and other opera favorites in its upcoming opera

In addition to these professional organizations and venues, a good
number of other media entities are instrumental in providing Memphis
with top-notch entertainment and quality cultural programs for the
performing arts. Some of them are the Black Arts Alliance, The Blues
Foundation, Memphis Arts Council, NARAS and the Memphis & Shelby County
Music Commission.

On the web:
Chamber of Commerce:
City of Memphis:
Real Estate:
Memphis City Schools:
University of Tennessee at Memphis:
University of Memphis:
Memphis Shelby County Airport:

Travel & Booking:
The Memphis Flyer:
Opera Memphis:
Photos of Memphis:

Reader Reviews for "Living & Working in Memphis, Tennessee"

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Reviewed by Cynthia Borris 7/2/2004

Excellent article. You covered all the bases. Sounds like a wonderful place to live.

Reviewed by Vicki Sullivan (Reader) 7/1/2004
great write!

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