MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton led the eulogies Saturday for D’Army Bailey, a lawyer and judge who helped preserve the Memphis hotel where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and turn it into the National Civil Rights Museum.
Bailey died last Sunday at age 73 after a long illness.
At his funeral attended by Memphis’ mayor, other political leaders, lawyers and judges, Clinton heaped praise on Bailey for saving the Lorraine Motel, The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1MhNoOn) reported.
“The Lorraine Motel could be a parking lot for all you know today if it hadn’t been for D’Army Bailey,” the former president said.
“The man was moving all his life,” Clinton added. “And he believed everything should have a moving purpose, including this museum. He left you and America a national treasure.”
Bailey led the fight to preserve the crumbling Lorraine Motel, where King was slain while standing on a balcony on April 4, 1968. King had stayed at the hotel while marching and making speeches on behalf of striking sanitation workers who were protesting low wages and unsafe working conditions.
Bailey assembled donors to buy the hotel, which ultimately became the National Civil Rights Museum in 1991. The museum has since undergone an extensive renovation.
Bailey received his law degree from Yale and practiced civil rights law in New York before moving to California. He served on the Berkeley, California, city council from 1971 until 1973.
He later returned home to Memphis, where he practiced law and served as a judge.
Bailey also had small acting roles in several films, including “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
Further from the Commercial Appeal:
Judge Bailey’s civil rights activism, Clinton acknowledged with a smile, had “moved’’ Southern University to expel him and “moved’’ citizens of Berkeley, California, to remove him from their City Council in 1973.
“But that was part of who he was,” Clinton said in his 17-minute eulogy. “Here’s the first thing I want to say to the young people: You need to be moving.’’
That same compulsion to act led Judge Bailey, Clinton said, to save the Lorraine Motel. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated there in 1968.
…Judge Bailey’s colleagues in the judiciary — about 40 strong — sat as a group at the front behind U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
Wharton was one of six people who gave short eulogies before the former president took the pulpit. The others were U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice Donald, attorney Richard Glassman, family friend Aubrey Howard, Circuit Court Judge Jerry Stokes and Bailey’s brother, Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey.
Wharton smiled as he described Judge Bailey as “the most sophisticated, cosmopolitan radical that most of us would ever meet.’’
Wharton drew laughter when he said, “Who but D’Army Bailey could pull off ‘speaking truth to power’ while remaining one of the individuals in power? But, hey, that was D’Army Bailey.’’