Memphis shined a little brighter Wednesday, Oct. 17 during the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Ceremony, as 2,000 city leaders and executives from the public and private sector crowded into the historic Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Memphis to celebrate service.
TVA was a sponsor for the annual event, which honored Civil Rights activist and Rainbow PUSH Coalition Founder Jesse Jackson, former Vice President Joe Biden and prominent philanthropist J. R. “Pitt” Hyde of the Hyde Family Foundation. A special musical tribute also celebrated Aretha Franklin, whose family later took the stage in appreciation.
Jesse Jackson receives the Freedom Award from President & COO of FedEx Corporation David J. Bronczek. Photo Credit: National Civil Rights Museum
Nine employees represented TVA, including Vice President of Customer Delivery Dan Pratt, Memphis Executive Director Mark Creech and Allen Combined Cycle Plant Manager Dave Skelskey.
TVA also welcomed NAACP (Memphis Chapter) Executive Director Vickie Terry as a special guest and new community partner. “I appreciate TVA so much for inviting me, and I am looking forward to the partnership ahead because I want the community to know how TVA is ready to uplift the Memphis community. TVA has not forgotten about Memphis, and we’re going to work together. This is just the beginning of a long relationship!”
Terry walked the red carpet, alongside friends from TVA and MLGW, including the utility’s President and CEO J.T. Young and his wife. “It’s really important that we support activities like this in our community,” Young said, “and it’s great to have national heroes being recognized here in Memphis. This is a great Civil Rights story with all the honorees, and we are just glad to participate.”
From spoken word to video chronicles of the honorees’ lives and civic contributions, the event — themed “1968” — told stories of pain and progress, including when Dr. King was killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with Jackson only feet away. “We’re here tonight not because Dr. King died but because he lived,” Jackson said. “Tonight, the focus is still on eradicating poverty, racial polarization and promoting peace. This is light.”