Memphis remembers civil rights activist Judge D’Army Bailey

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MEMPHIS,. Tenn -- When it comes to civil rights and social justice, Judge D'Army Bailey was considered as being one of its most important crusaders.

Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis knew Bailey for many years.

"Judge Bailey was an advocate. He wanted to see social change and civil rights early on and had an opinion on many things and traveled in different circles and had an influence on a lot of people and was respected across racial lines," Bailey said.

Much of Bailey's life and his passion in life was being an activist and a lawyer. It even got him expelled from Southern University in Baton Rouge.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said throughout Bailey's life, he wore many hats and influenced many lives.

"He was a husband, a father, an attorney. He served on the Berkeley City Council and he had experience in the legislative branch. He was a writer and he was an actor," Wharton said.

His film credits include the movies "The People vs Larry Flynt' and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."

But many say his legacy was being the visionary founder of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis formerly the Lorraine Motel where Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

"D'Army will always be remembered as jurist and attorney, but really his lasting contribution is the civil rights museum. It was really his idea to save the LorraIne and go to the state, city and county governments for the funds to make it a reality," Cohen said.

"This radical from Berkeley, California to come to Memphis, Tennessee with his dream of a museum and go to Nashville and convince a country governor, Ned McWherter, to get money for a civil rights museum. Everybody told him the odds are stacked against you and it make him fight harder and look what we have now because of his steadfast determination," Wharton said.

Bailey served as museum board president, but resigned from the board after the museum opened.

Still, many say his legacy as a crusader in Memphis will live on.

"When it came to fighting for a cause he was honorably ornery and he took no prisoners and it was always for a higher cause," Wharton said.
Judge Bailey is survived by his wife, Adrienne, sons Justin and Merritt Bailey, his brother, Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey and a sister Elsie Lewis Bailey.

Funeral Services are incomplete at this time.

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