This article first appeared in The Daily Memphian on June 25, 2019

With a half-dozen Corvettes, a Beale Street trumpet and an African drum, fez-wearing Moolahs and Elks, Beale Street marked the 180th anniversary Tuesday of the birth of Robert R. Church Sr.

The event, organized by Rev. LaSimba Gray, was a seldom-seen honor on the street where Church did business and presided over the empire of the South’s first black millionaire. It was also part of the city’s observance of the bicentennial of the founding of Memphis.

“This is hallowed ground,” historian Elaine Turner told a group of around 100 in Robert Church Park, the site of the Church Park and Auditorium that Church built and opened in 1899 next to his Solvent Savings Bank and Trust and on the same block as First Baptist Church of Beale.