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Posted on: August 12, 2020

Mayor Lee Harris’ Message on Celebrating Life in These Extraordinary Times

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I may be biased but I believe Shelby County is one of the greatest places to live.

What makes our community great are the people.

This summer, I had the chance to celebrate several very special Shelby County residents on their birthdays. Although we should avoid large social gatherings, we still need to mark our special occasions. We celebrated these summer birthdays with drive-by parties, party favors that included facemasks and hand sanitizer, and other novel twists brought on in these extraordinary times.

Here are a couple of birthday “parties” I attended that really stood out to me this summer.

On July 12th, 2020, Mrs. Willie Mae Gray of Memphis celebrated her 100th birthday. She has had so much good fortune and lived an incredibly fulfilled life. She raised a beautiful family in Memphis and she has been a lifelong member at Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church. Mrs. Willie Mae Gray stays up to date on the news and has voted in every election since she was 18, according to her grandchildren. For almost a century, she has modeled active citizenship and a devotion to her community. It was my honor to join her in a socially distant celebration and to present her with a very special gift from Shelby County.

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Mrs. Willie Mae Gray with her Key to the County (Image source: Local 24 News)

On August 3rd, 2020, Sheriff Eugene Barksdale celebrated his 98th birthday. Throughout his life, Sheriff Barksdale has shown courage, determination, and devotion to community. He was born in Shelby County, attended public school in Memphis, and married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Barksdale. After marrying, Sheriff Barksdale joined the Army, serving as an Army Air Corps pilot during World War II. His military service was followed by 24 years of work in the Memphis Police Department before being elected Shelby County Sheriff in 1976. It was my honor to join Sheriff Barksdale in a celebration and salute for his lifetime of service.

sheriff barksdale

Mayor Harris presents Sheriff Barksdale with his Key to the County

I hope we all strive to live our lives with the kind of commitment and care to our families and community that these two residents exemplify. Through their service, they have earned the respect and affection of people from all walks of life and all ages. Our community is certainly greater due to their contributions.


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