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Encyclopedia > Memphis, TN

Memphis, Tennessee
Image:memphisflag.jpg Image:memphisseal.jpg
City flag City seal
City nickname: "The River City" or "The Bluff City"

Location in the state of Tennessee
County Shelby County, Tennessee
 - Total
 - Water

763.4 km˛ (294.8 mi˛)
40.0 km˛ (15.4 mi˛) 5.24%

 - Total (2000)

 - Density


Time zone Central: UTC-6


35°7'3" N
89°58'16" W
(35.117365, -89.971068)1.

External link: City of Memphis Online (http://www.cityofmemphis.org/)

Memphis is a city in Shelby County, Tennessee, of which it is the county seat. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 650,100 within the city limits, making it the largest city in the state of Tennessee, United States. The greater Memphis metropolitan area had a population of 1,195,977.

The city is particularly known for blues music and barbecue.

Memphis is on the Lower Chickasaw Bluff above the Mississippi River, at the mouth of the Wolf River.



Memphis was settled by the Chickasaw tribe. The Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, is believed to have visited what is now the Memphis area. The French built Fort Prudhomme in the vicinity. The city was founded in 1819 and incorporated as a city in 1826. At the conclusion of the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862 during the American Civil War, Union forces captured Memphis from Confederate control. A yellow fever epidemic in 1870 greatly reduced the population for many years thereafter. In 1897, Memphis' pyramid-shaped pavilion was a conspicuous part of the Tennessee Centennial exposition. From the 1910s to the 1950s, Memphis was a hotbed of machine politics under the direction of E. H. "Boss" Crump.

Law and government

Since 1966, Memphis has been governed by the "weak mayor" form of mayor-council government. The new city charter provided for the election of a mayor and thirteen council members, six elected at large from throughout the city and seven elected from geographic districts. In 1995, the council adopted a new district plan which changed council positions to all districts. This plan provides for nine districts, seven with one representative each and two districts with three representatives each.

The current mayor of Memphis is Dr. W. W. Herenton. Dr. Herenton is currently serving his fourth consecutive term as Mayor. He was elected for the first time in 1991, when he became Memphis' first black mayor. Prior to his election, Dr. Herenton served for 12 years as the superintendent of Memphis City Schools.

There been in recent years the idea thrown around of the potential of the merger of county government of Shelby County and City of Memphis into a metropolitan government similiar to that in Nashville.

See also: List of mayors of Memphis


Memphis is located at 35°7'3" North, 89°58'16" West (35.117365, -89.971068)1. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 763.4 km˛ (294.8 mi˛). 723.4 km˛ (279.3 mi˛) of it is land and 40.0 km˛ (15.4 mi˛) of it is water. The total area is 5.24% water.

Major Memphis parks include Tom Lee Park, Audubon Park, Overton Park and the Memphis Botanic Garden.

Metropolitan Area

Memphis is the primary city of a metropolitan region including parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Memphis metropolitan area has a populuation of 1,195,977, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The Memphis metopolitan area encompasses the counties of Fayette, Tipton, and Shelby in Tennessee, DeSoto, Marshall, Tate, Tunica in Mississippi, and Crittenden in Arkansas.


  • Downtown
  • East Memphis
  • Frayser
  • Medical District
  • Midtown
  • Mud Island
  • Raleigh
  • Southside
  • Orange Mound
  • South Memphis
  • Uptown
  • Whitehaven
  • Central Gardens
  • Chickasaw Gardens
  • Cooper-Young
  • Harbor Town
  • South Bluffs
  • East End
  • Lenox
  • Rozelle Annesdale
  • Annesdale Snowden
  • Annesdale Park
  • Victorian Village

Tallest Buildings

Name Stories Height (in feet)
100 North Main 37 430
Commerce Square 31 396
Sterick Building 31 365
Clark Tower 32 365
Morgan Keegan Tower 23 341


Interstate highways I-40, its spur highway I-240 and I-55 are the main freeways in the Memphis area. The interstates of I-40 and I-55 (along with rail lines) cross the Mississippi at Memphis into the state of Arkansas. The future interstates of I-22 and I-69 are also planned to converge into the Memphis area.

Public transportation in the Memphis area is provided by the Memphis Area Transit Authority (http://www.matatransit.com), which provides the area with buses and a downtown trolley system that is also in the process of expanding into a regional system.


Name Nickname Length (in feet) Date Opened
Frisco 12 May, 1892
Harahan 14 July, 1916
Memphis & Arkansas "Old Bridge" 17 December, 1949
Hernando De Soto "New Bridge" 2 August, 1973


Memphis is a center of manufacture of textiles, heating equipment, pianos, and automobile and truck parts. It is also the headquarters of FedEx shipping.

Because of its status as the primary hub for FedEx, Memphis International Airport is currently the world's busiest cargo airport in terms of tonnage.

Memphis' Division of Light, Gas and Water ("MLGW") is one of the largest municipal utitilites in the United States.

Fortune 500 Companies

Other Important Companies

  • Back Yard Burgers
  • Belz Enterprises
  • Buckeye Technologies
  • First Tennessee Bank
  • Guardsmark
  • Hohenberg Bros. Co.
  • Northwest Airlines (hub only, no headquarters)
  • Union Planters Bank

Communications and Media



As of the census2 of 2000, there are 650,100 people, 250,721 households, and 158,455 families residing in the city. The population density is 898.6/km˛ (2,327.4/mi˛). There are 271,552 housing units at an average density of 375.4/km˛ (972.2/mi˛). The racial makeup of the city is 34.41% White, 61.41% African American, 0.19% Native American, 1.46% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.45% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. 2.97% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 250,721 households out of which 31.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.1% are married couples living together, 23.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.8% are non-families. 30.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.52 and the average family size is 3.18.

In the city the population is spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 10.8% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 84.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $32,285, and the median income for a family is $37,767. Males have a median income of $31,236 versus $25,183 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,838. 20.6% of the population and 17.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 30.1% of those under the age of 18 and 15.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Sites of Interest

Tourists come from all over the world to see Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. Sun studios, where Elvis first recorded "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin", rock n roll,is located in the city also. Other famous musicians who got their start at Sun include Johnny Cash, Rufus Thomas, Charlie Rich, Howlin' Wolf, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Blues fans can head down to Beale Street, where a young B.B. King used to play his guitar, and occasionally still appears at a club bearing his name and partly owned by him.

There is Libertyland Amusement Park and the adjacent Liberty Bowl and Memphis Children's Museum, Mud Island, Detour Memphis - an art and performing space, Lichterman Nature Center, the Pink Palace Museum, The Pyramid, The Memphis Zoo, the Memphis Queen riverboat.

The Mid-South Fair comes to the city every fall, and every May there is the Memphis in May. Each year, the city honors a foreign country, and each weekend hosts a special event, including the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest and the Music Festival.

Colleges and universities

Sports teams


The Memphis area is home to many of West Tennessee's larger arts and culutral organizations, such as the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, which performs at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Memphis. Ballet Memphis, which is the region's only major ballet company, performs at The Orpheum Theatre. Opera Memphis, the region's opera company, performs at the Clark Opera Memphis Center in East Memphis.


Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, located in the former Lorraine Motel, where the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park, founded in 1916, serves as the region's major art museum. The Children's Museum of Memphis features many interactive exhibits, including a simulated grocery store, a wood skyscraper maze, and full-scale models of a fire truck and an airplane fuselage.

Also, there is the Stax Museum, the Museum of American Soul Music. The museum is home to a broad collection of artifacts, photographs, exhibits, commentary, and music. Along with the legendary Stax Sound, the museum also spotlights the music of Muscle Shoals, Motown, Hi and Atlantic.

Other museums in the area include:

  • Fire Museum
  • Memphis Museum Hall of Fame
  • Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
  • Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium


  • Playhouse on the Square
  • Circuit Playhouse
  • Theatre Memphis
  • The Orpheum Theatre
  • Theatre Works

Notable Natives

Actors, Directors and Musicians


Jurists, Politicians and Activists

Sports Figures



Regions of Tennessee
East Tennessee | Middle Tennessee | West Tennessee | Blue Ridge Mountains | Ridge-and-valley Appalachians | Cumberland Plateau | Highland Rim | Nashville Basin | Gulf Coastal Plain
Nashville metropolitan area | Memphis metropolitan area
Largest Cities
Bartlett | Brentwood | Bristol | Chattanooga | Clarksville | Cleveland | Cookeville | Franklin | Germantown | Hendersonville | Jackson | Johnson City | Kingsport | Knoxville | Memphis | Morristown | Murfreesboro | Nashville | Oak Ridge | Smyrna
Anderson | Bedford | Benton | Bledsoe | Blount | Bradley | Campbell | Cannon | Carroll | Carter | Cheatham | Chester | Clairborne | Clay | Cocke | Coffee | Crockett | Cumberland | Davidson | Decatur | DeKalb | Dickson | Dyer | Fayette | Fentress | Franklin | Gibson | Giles | Grainger | Greene | Grundy | Hamblen | Hamilton | Hancock | Hardeman | Hardin | Hawkins | Haywood | Henderson | Henry | Hickman | Houston | Humphreys | Jackson | Jefferson | Johnson | Knox | Lake | Lauderdale | Lawrence | Lewis | Lincoln | Loudon | Macon | Madison | Marion | Marshall | Maury | McMinn | McNairy | Meigs | Monroe | Montgomery | Moore | Morgan | Obion | Overton | Perry | Pickett | Polk | Putnam | Rhea | Roane | Robertson | Rutherford | Scott | Sequatchie | Sevier | Shelby | Smith | Stewart | Sullivan | Sumner | Tipton | Trousdale | Unicoi | Union | Van Buren | Warren | Washington | Wayne | Weakley | White | Williamson | Wilson

External links

  • Maps and aerial photos
    • Street map from Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?latlongtype=decimal&latitude=35.117365&longitude=-89.971068&zoom=6)
    • Topographic map from Topozone (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=35.117365&lon=-89.971068&s=200&size=m&layer=DRG100)
    • Aerial photograph from Microsoft Terraserver (http://terraserver.microsoft.com/map.aspx?t=1&s=14&lon=-89.971068&lat=35.117365&w=750&h=500)

  Results from FactBites:
About Memphis, TN (876 words)
Today Memphis has one of the lowest costs of living of any major U.S. city, is within a day's drive of two-thirds of the nation's population, and offers some of the most advanced infrastructure for moving goods and information available anywhere in the world.
Memphis is in the middle of the Sun Belt.
Memphis is located in the southwest corner of Tennessee, with the Mississippi River and Arkansas to the west and the state of Mississippi to the south.
Pyramid Arena (Memphis, TN) - definition of Pyramid Arena (Memphis, TN) in Encyclopedia (187 words)
The Pyramid is a 20,000 seat arena located in downtown Memphis at the banks of the Mississippi River.
The facility was built in 1991 and is owned and operated jointly by the city of Memphis and Shelby County.
It was the home court for the University of Memphis men's basketball program, and later for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.
  More results at FactBites »



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