By Chip Armstrong
On May 1st, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Sun Studio release of “I Walk the Line,” an historical marker was unveiled by Shelby County Historian Jimmy Ogle at the Cooper and Walker site of the proposed statue honoring American music great Johnny Cash. Among those commemorating the event were State Senator Lee Harris, Midtown city council representative Jamita Swearington, members of Cash’s family, his original drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland, intrigued neighbors, and lucky pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming tourists from as far away as Germany and Australia.
Barely a year has passed since the announcement of an out-of-nowhere-idea to erect a statue of Cash to memorialize the Memphis music icon’s first public appearance at Cooper-Young’s Galloway Methodist Church in December, 1954.
There were, of course, many questions … and obstacles. First, who’s going to pay for it? And where will it be? Who’s going to build it? Who’s going to make it happen? Who’s going to own it? And many more.
Amazingly, however, the Johnny Cash statue project has raised nearly $35,000, which is almost half the money needed to pay the $75,000 fee to artist and noted North Mississippi sculptor William Beckwith. (Another $35,000 will be needed for the construction of the Plaza, designed by Cooper-Young’s renowned architect Bemis Atkins).
While inscribed bricks have been sold to Johnny Cash fans from Canada to Switzerland, by far most of the donations have come from our own Cooper-Young neighbors and businesses. To be sure, the Cooper-Young Community Association and the Cooper-Young Business Association have been instrumental with their leadership, support and enthusiasm.
Now the need is to seek donors beyond our neighborhood borders. Several civic organizations and philanthropy groups only donate to registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations. So the Johnny Cash statue project has submitted an application under Legacy Memphis for 501(c)(3) status, listing officers as President Mike McCarthy, Vice-President John Bass, and Secretary/Treasurer Chip Armstrong.
The Legacy Memphis mission statement: Creating sculptures in partnership with the community to celebrate Memphis cultural legacies.
In next month’s Lamplighter, please be prepared for more good news and positive developments as we continue our goal to raise money to erect a towering and incredibly beautiful Cash statue in our own Cooper-Young neighborhood.
For more information and to find out how you can help, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.