John Elkington Donates Beale Street Memorabilia to University of Memphis

March 1, 2016- Longtime Beale Street developer John Elkington has donated items from his personal collection to the University of Memphis. Elkington, a principal in Elkington Real Estate Group and a graduate of the UofM's Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, has amassed a collection of more than 10,000 slides, posters and photographs that date back to the 1950s.

"I felt like it was important to tell the urban story about Beale Street," said Elkington "At one point, buildings were falling down, there was no commerce and there were no musicians. Beale Street is one of the major urban success stories in the country."

Elkington's involvement with the redevelopment of Beale Street, located in downtown Memphis, began in 1982. He was already a successful real estate developer in his early 30s when he decided to spearhead the restoration project. When asked by the city of Memphis to lead the redevelopment of Beale Street, Elkington agreed to manage the massive project with three goals in mind: to preserve the music of Beale Street, bring commerce back and maintain a diversity of owners and patrons.

Among the thousands of historic images in Elkington's collection are rare photos of B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Sam Phillips and other artists associated with the historic street.

"Mr. Elkington's collection is of tremendous value as it chronicles Beale Street during a period of great change," said Dr. Gerald Chaudron, head of the Preservation and Special Collections Department at the University of Memphis Libraries. "I am very pleased to accept this collection which helps tell the story of this vital piece of the city's musical heritage."

Beale Street has gone from being a desolate location to Memphis' premier entertainment district and top tourist attraction. With more than 4 million visitors to Memphis annually, Beale Street was named the "Most Iconic American Street" by the readers of USA Today in 2013.

Gabrielle Maxey