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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Everett R. Cook oral history collection

Repository: Memphis Public Library & Information Center

Collection Description (Extant): The Oral History Program began in the early 1960s when former Tennessee Governor W. Browning agreed to be interviewed on audio tape by Memphis State University professor and archivist Joseph H. Riggs. This interview was very successful, and the program was expanded to include taped interviews with people from Memphis and Tennessee including Abe Plough, Blair Hunt and George W. Lee. The program also includes tapes of conversations with individuals associated with events such as the funerals of Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Faulkner and interviews conducted through the Neighborhood History Project about Memphis neighborhoods including Cooper-Young, Greenlaw, Buntyn-Messick and Vollentine-Evergreen. Interviews were also conducted on race relations, the Memphis mayoral campaign of 1967, the school lunch program, the Tennessee Poetry Society and the Memphis Blues Project. Also included are interviews with individuals who were instrumental in the history of music in Memphis which were conducted by Margaret McKee and Fred Chisenhall for their book, Beale Black and Blue. The Oral History Program tapes also include the memoirs of General Everett R. Cook, who had a successful career as a businessman and a military officer. As a businessman, Cook owned his own cotton company and formed E. R. Cook & Co., which was later known as Cook Industries, Inc. During World War I, Cook served in the 91st Aero Squadron, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He served as a lieutenant colonel during World War II, and served as deputy chief of staff under General Carl Spaatz in the U.S. Air Force. He achieved the rank of brigadier general in 1948. General Cook was also a dedicated civil servant. In 1953 he was elected to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention, and he served as chair of the Auditorium Commission and as a director of Eastern Airlines and Plough, Inc. The Everett R. Cook Convention Center was named in his honor in 1974, and he was awarded honorary degrees from Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College) and Christian Brothers College. Cook's memoirs were installed in the Memphis and Shelby County Room in 1972. Transcripts of the tapes were adapted into a hardbound book, Everett R. Cook: A Memoir, and General Cook contributed 1,000 copies to be sold to benefit the Oral History Program.

Of great importance to 20th century social history are two series of Civil Rights interviews, the first conducted in 1982 by Thomas Faist and the second conducted in 2000 and 2004 by Elizabeth Gritter. Those individuals interviewed by both Faist and Gritter were either directly associated with the movement in Memphis or were prominent citizens working to achieve social justice goals.

Access Copy Note: Univ. of Memphis Special Collections' Microfilm Collection #27 titled MIFA [Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association] oral histories contains microfilmed transcripts of oral histories in the Everett Cook collection at the Memphis/Shelby County Room. There are 6 reels. Reel 1 has transcripts of oral histories of the Rozelle-Annesdale Neighborhood, Cooper-Young Neighborhood, and Douglass Neighborhood. Oral histories of the Buntyn-Messick Neighborhood are on reels 2 and 3. Oral histories of the Greenlaw Neighborhood are on reels 3 and 4. Oral histories of the Mid-Memphis Improvement Association (MMIA) are on reels 5 and 6. Oral histories of the Vollentine-Evergreen Community Association (VECA) are on reels 5 and 6. It is unclear whether microfilmed transcriptions of the Cherokee Neighborhood series; the Cook Collection finding aid specifies these are not all transcribed.

A very detailed finding aid is available for access in the Memphis and Shelby County Room. The collection URL provides an image of it and some information from it.

The Crossroads to Freedom Project of Rhodes College has digitized some material in this collection.

Collection URL: External Link

Digital Status: Partial

Extent: 29.5 linear feet

Language: English

Related Archival Items: The Commercial Appeal library has digitized newspaper articles (see and photographs relating to the 1968 sanitation strike (see It also has a video done in 2008 that includes interviews of Benjamin Hooks and other Memphians on Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream Speech; see In addition, the WHBQ Fox News affiliate in Memphis has created a web site that includes footage on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement and its aftermath in Memphis from its archive as well as the National Civil Rights Museum and television stations in Atlanta; see

Interviewees: Russell Sugarmon, Blair T. Hunt, George W. Lee, Maxine Smith, A. W. Willis, Jr., Nat D. Williams, A. Maceo Walker, Otis Higgs, Lorene Thomas, O. Z. Evers, Alexander Gladney, Lamar Wallis, George W. Lee, Rabbi James Wax, Roberta Church

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American musicians
African American political activists--Tennessee
African Americans--Civil rights--Tennessee
Beale Street (Memphis, Tenn.)
Blues (Music)
Busing for school integration
Civil rights movements--Tennessee
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968--Assassination
Memphis (Tenn.)--Politics and government
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tenn., 1968
Tennessee--Politics and government
World War, 1939-1945


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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