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Memphis, TN




Posted July 15, 2015

Stop Sign: Judge D'Army Bailey, civil rights activist, politician, civic leader died after a long illness on July 12, 2015 at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Below are statements on the man who is credited with saving the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Bailey led the fight to preserve the motel as a monument to Dr. King. The motel now houses the National Civil Rights Museum, which is considered one of most comprehensive civil rights and Black history museums in the nation and world.


Statements on Judge D'Army Bailey

Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus Mourns Judge D'Army Bailey

Hail legal and civic accomplishments

Nashville, TN: The Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus extends its deepest sympathies to the family of civil rights activist Judge D’Army Bailey. Judge Bailey served as circuit court judge in Memphis for 19 years. 

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Judge D’Army Bailey,” said State Representative Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville).  “His life was dedicated to the service of others from his early fights during the civil rights era to his last days defending the most vulnerable in Tennessee courtrooms.  He is a legend whose example we must never forget.”

D’Army Bailey was born in Memphis. He later attended college at Southern University in Louisiana, but was expelled for his participation in the civil rights non-violent protest movement. He finished his studies in Massachusetts and went on to receive his law degree from Yale in 1967. Judge Bailey returned to Memphis is 1974 to practice law. 

“As someone who grew up in Memphis watching Judge D’Army Bailey, I can tell you he is one of the reasons I entered the field of law,” said attorney and State Representative Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis). “His passion for not only the letter of the law, but the real people whom it impacted made him both tough and compassionate. He believed in people and he fought for them his whole life.”

Judge Bailey’s influence extended beyond the judiciary. In 1982, when the city wanted to demolish the defunct Lorraine Motel where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Judge Bailey spearheaded a group of local activist to raise the $150,000 necessary to purchase the facility at auction. He later oversaw the creation of the National Civil Rights Museum at the site and served for eight years as President of the Board. 

“Judge Bailey created a wonderful monument to civil rights right here in Tennessee,” said  State Representative JoAnne Favors (D-Chattanooga). “As a state, we are the eternal beneficiaries of his vision. As a nation, we are the beneficiaries of his life’s work. He was a legend.”

Judge D’Army Bailey passed away at Methodist Hospital in Memphis over the weekend.  


Civil rights activist remembered for preservation of Lorraine Motel

NASHVILLE – Members of the Shelby County delegation released the following statements to honor the late D'Army Bailey:

"As a tireless civil rights activist, public servant and visionary, Judge Bailey was a truly great Tennessean," Shelby County delegation chairwoman Karen Camper said. "His life and his service serve as an inspiration to us all."

"Judge Bailey was a peerless advocate for civil rights and for preserving the history of our city," Shelby County delegation vice chairman Reginald Tate said. "His was a life lived with high purpose that will be remembered by Tennesseans for many years to come."

"He was a champion of justice who represented the very best of Shelby County," Shelby County delegation secretary Curry Todd said. "We should all aspire to live up to his legacy."

State Rep. Karen Camper represents District 87 in Memphis and serves as chairwoman of the Shelby County delegation.

State Sen. Reginald Tate represents District 33 in Memphis and serves as vice chairman of the Shelby County delegation.

State Rep. Curry Todd represents District 95 in Shelby County and serves as secretary of the Shelby County delegation.



NASHVILLE – State Sens. Lee Harris made the following statement on the passing of Judge D'Army Bailey.

"Those of us concerned with justice, fairness, and civil rights have lost an unrivaled leader. Not even very long ago, I can remember watching him join in leading a protest against the travesty of what was happening to the Kelloggs workers in Memphis. He didn't have to be out there. Judge Bailey stood for fairness and was willing to fight for it. His was a life worth emulating and this loss is profound."

State Sen. Lee Harris represents District 29 in Memphis and serves as Senate Minority Leader. Follow the Senate Democratic Caucus on Twitter at @TNSenateDems.

Statement from Mayor Luttrell about the death of Judge D’Army Bailey:


“Judge Bailey was a dedicated public servant.  He served with fairness and professionalism in the judicial arena.  Moreover, his guidance and expertise on civil rights and other community initiatives led to greater opportunities for the citizens of Shelby County.  All of us at Shelby County Government extend our sympathy to his family,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr.




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