Activist and Judge D’Army Bailey fought for the National Civil Rights Museum to be in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For thousands of tourists with cameras in hand, the National Civil Rights Museum has become a must see.

But it was the vision of Judge D'Army Bailey to turn the old Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, into a living memorial to the civil rights movement.

"Without D'Army's courageous, persistence, and patience, this museum wouldn't have existed. It took D'Army's passion and his steadfast commitment to the tremendous opportunity of taking this from a site of tragedy and make this into an iconic site for our children, and our children's children and the nation and world to see," Beverly Robertson, the museum's former president, said.

Perhaps it was what Judge Bailey had seen growing up in Memphis and graduating from  Booker T. Washington that no doubt influenced him.

He eventually studied at Clark University, Southern University  and Yale Law School.

After leaving New York he  was elected to the Berkeley City Council in California and returned to Memphis in 1974 to practice law.

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton knew Judge Bailey well.

"D'Army had a profound sense of history. He loved the struggle of African-American people. He respected African-American heritage and truly felt Memphis should have a lasting testimony to the civil rights struggle,"  Dr. Herenton said.

Judge Bailey was a husband and father, a civil rights activist, a circuit court judge and even an actor in movies such as "The People vs. Larry Flynt."

Whether in real life or on the silver screen, he was known for being courageous.

"If he were fighting for a just cause, he would climb the mountain. He was David slaying Goliath. D'Army was a gifted and courageous brother. He had style and class and he did a lot of wonderful things for Memphis. Memphis should be proud to call him a native son," Dr. Herenton said.

Friends said Judge Bailey leaves behind a legacy that will be seen whenever a person pulls out a camera and sets foot onto the Civil Rights Museum.

"No matter if people forget D'Army, his legacy and his life will always live right here in the National Civil Rights Museum," Robertson said.

Judge Bailey leaves his wife, Adrienne; and two sons, Justin and Merritt , and his brother, Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey.

 

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