|Memphis, Tenn., March 25 – Almost 40 years ago to this
day, the legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was
assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee while standing on the second floor balcony
of the Lorraine Motel – now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Today, with the help of Hampton® Hotels’ Save-A-Landmark® program
and legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson, this illustrious museum and infamous
setting in American history will receive a makeover.
The restoration effort – the largest in the program’s nine-year history
– will call on more than 100 Hampton Hotel volunteers from the area who’ll
work alongside Jackson to restore four exhibition rooms by replacing wallpaper,
repainting walls, repairing displays and mending electrical components;
renovating the exterior walkways and facade, and upgrading the surrounding
landscape. The program plans to complete most of the project by the 40th
anniversary of Dr. King’s untimely passing on April 4, 1968. Hampton
will contribute more than 1,000 volunteer hours towards reviving this national
|The aftershock of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
on April 4, 1968 would plunge the Lorraine Motel, a small minority-owned
business in the south-end of downtown Memphis, into a long and steep decline.
The motel’s owner, Walter Lane Bailey kept a couple of rooms as a shrine
to Dr. King and to Bailey’s wife, Lorraine, who died of a brain hemorrhage
several hours after King was shot.
By 1982, the Lorraine Motel was a foreclosed property. A group of prominent
Memphians, concerned that this historic site would be destroyed through
continued neglect and indifference, formed the Martin Luther King Memorial
Foundation to save the Lorraine. Using a design report by a former Smithsonian
Institution, Benjamin Lawless, the Foundation started seeking funding for
the nations’s first comprehensive exhibit chronicling America’s civil rights
The Foundation raised $10,000, which brought a short option to buy the
Lorraine; however, members of the Foundation were unable to raise the full
contract price of $250,000. Fortunately, in December 1982, the Foundation
was able to purchase the Lorraine at auction for $144,000. Of that amount,
$69,000 came from the fundraising efforts of Foundation members. In addition,
$25,000 was donated by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME) and $10,000 was donated by Lucky Hearts Cosmetics, a
business located across the street from the Lorraine. The remaining $50,000
was loaned by Tri-State Bank and secured jointly by AFSCME and Lucky Hearts.
With vital support from the City of Memphis, Shelby County, and the
State of Tennessee, nearly $ 9 million dollars were raised to create and
construct a civil rights center within the Lorraine Motel designed to help
visitors better understand the history and lessons of the American Civil
The Lorraine Civil Rights Foundation held an official groundbreaking
in 1987 and on September 28, 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum opened
its doors to visitors. http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/
The refurbishment of the National Civil Rights Museum will kick off
Hampton’s 2008 campaign – aptly named “Landmark Legends” – devoted to restoring
sites honoring prominent Americans, such as Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace
and Museum, the Barnum Museum, and the Poe Museum. The list of legendary
figures was generated from a nationwide survey, conducted by Hampton Hotels,
to celebrate the accomplishments of those Americans who have inspired change,
overcome adversity and made a difference.
“There was no question that Dr. King should be the first Legend honored
by the program, and there was no better setting to honor his influence
on the world than the Civil Rights Museum,” said Judy Christa-Cathey, vice
president of brand marketing for Hampton Hotels. “Dr. King’s legacy as
one of America’s most influential leaders of positive change should never
be forgotten. Our goal is to help organizations like the National Civil
Rights Museum continue educating, inspiring and motivating people for years
Samuel L. Jackson, himself an usher at Martin Luther King’s funeral
stated, “The National Civil Rights Museum is an important landmark in American
history. I’m looking forward to working alongside the volunteers
at Hampton Hotels and their Save-A-Landmark program in restoring the grounds.”
|Hampton Hotel volunteers Julie Ingebrigtson (left) and Sharon Fells
polish the window that looks into the room where Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. slept at the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights
Museum, in Memphis, TN, Mon., March 24, 2008. More than 100 volunteers
from Hampton Hotels' Save-A-Landmark program will work together to restore
the Museum in preparation for the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's untimely
death. (Photo by Robin Weiner)
Those looking to discover other locations devoted to historic individuals
– or to possibly nominate their own “Landmark Legend” – can visit the Save-A-Landmark
site at www.hamptonlandmarks.com and click on “submit a landmark” to enter
a nomination for a legendary landmark. Below is just a sample of “heroic”
landmarks already included in the program’s online database.
Jesse Owens Memorial Park, Danville, Ala.: This park honors Olympic great
Jesse Owens, an Oakville native who won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin
Olympic Games, the first American and the second athlete in history to
win four gold medals.
Jackie Robinson Birthplace, Cairo, Ga.: Born here on January 31, 1919 to
sharecroppers and enslaved grandparents on what was once a plantation,
Jackie Robinson – the first African-American major league baseball player
– was just two years old when his mother packed up Jackie and his four
siblings, hopped on a train and headed to California.
Hellen Keller Birthplace, Tuscumbia, Ala.: This small birthplace cottage
was the site of the remarkable story of Helen Keller, the woman who was
struck blind and deaf after becoming ill around the age of two. The home,
called Ivy Green, eventually became the living quarters for Helen and her
teacher, Anne Sullivan, whose huge teaching strides with Helen began by
simply spelling out the word "water" in Helen’s hand as she pumped water
Hampton’s Save-A-Landmark program is continuing its ninth year preserving
historical, fun and cultural landmarks, from the Carousel Gardens in New
Orleans, La. to the historical National Monument to the Forefathers in
Plymouth, Mass. During this time, the program has helped research
landmarks in need, promoted landmark sites and their importance, facilitated
thousands of volunteer hours, donated several tons of supplies and worked
with matching grants — all at an investment of more than $2.5 million.
Uniting its hotels together in the communities they serve, Hampton employee-volunteers
work hand-in-hand on the landmarks while Hampton provides the financial
support to refurbish selected sites.
Celia Cruz and Freedom Tower, Miami, Fla.: The Cuban songstress Celia Cruz,
“the Queen of Salsa,” performed at Freedom Tower during a 2001 fundraiser
to turn the site into a museum, and was later brought to the tower after
her death so tens of thousands of mourners could pay their last respects
to the legendary singer. Known as the Ellis Island of the Cuban community,
Freedom Tower is where immigration officials processed more than 500,000
Cubans who fled the country in the 1960s.
Landmark nominations have been a key element of the Save-A-Landmark
program’s success since its inception in 2000, with thousands of nominations
provided by the public. Submissions can be made online at www.hamptonlandmarks.com
or by mailing recommendations c/o Save-A-Landmark to 8730 Sunset Blvd,
5th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
About Hampton Hotels
Hampton, which includes Hampton Inn, Hampton by Hilton and Hampton
Inn & Suites hotels, is a mid-priced leader in the lodging segment.
Hampton is part of Hilton Hotels Corporation, the leading global hospitality
company, with more than 3,000 hotels and 500,000 rooms in 78 countries
and territories, including 105,000 team members worldwide. The company
owns, manages or franchises a hotel portfolio of some of the best known
and highly regarded brands, including Hilton®, Conrad®, Doubletree®,
Embassy Suites Hotels®, Hampton Inn®, Hampton Inn & Suites®,
Hilton Garden Inn®, Hilton Grand Vacations®, Homewood Suites by
Hilton® and The Waldorf=Astoria Collection®. The Hilton Family
of Hotels adheres to founder Conrad Hilton’s philosophy that, “It has been,
and continues to be, our responsibility to fill the earth with the light
and warmth of hospitality.” The company put a name to its unique
brand of service that has made it the best known and most highly regarded
hotel company: be hospitable®. The philosophy
is shared by all brands in the Hilton Family of Hotels, and is the inspiration
for its overarching message of kindness and generosity. Hilton Hotels
Corporation’s sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Team will extend through
the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, and includes the
2008 U.S. Paralympic Team(s) and the 2007 U.S. Pan-Am Team. For more
information about our company, please visit www.hiltonworldwide.com, and
to learn more about our be hospitable philosophy, please visit www.behospitable.com.