New Hope MB Church in Walls, MS
Minnie Biographer Paul Garon
Posing for an official dedication photo following the unveiling are (from left) Memphis Minnie’s biographer Paul Garon holding a recording of the singer’s works which are being re-issued by B&G Records represented at the ceremony by Vince Caro and family of New York; her sister and oldest living relative Daisy Douglas Johnson and her sister-in-law, Ethel B. Douglas.
Blues-L member William Morgan reported, “This was a truly extraordinary event, and so much of the credit…should go to Skip Henderson of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund, which has now been responsible for nine such monuments [and] goes much further than the placing of a headstone” in honor of Memphis Minnie, who died in 1973 and lay buried in an unmarked grave.”
All of the pink paper signs on every immobile object in the small hamlet of Walls, Mississippi, guided an estimated one hundred people to the “typically tiny” New Hope Baptist Church, which sits about a mile west of the gas station on Highway 61. The crowd found the large, beveled stone at the eastern edge of the burial ground, draped with a bedsheet. As many as half of the people in attendance, Morgan believed, were relatives of Minnie, including the blues artists’ youngest sister, the last surviving of eleven siblings, and her daughter-in-law, with whom Minnie spent her final days. The church minister was as cordial as could be and could not have had less concern for the ragged appearance of some folks and invited them over to the ceremony, which started promptly at noon.
Blues Zeller William Morgan offered one last comment on the scene:
“All of us white folk were invited to stand and introduce ourselves and describe our interests in being there. I could go on about what the event meant to me — about how the prodigal daughter had finally been welcomed home without further judgment; about how good and evil and black and white had converged and cared without incident; and how I came to love the people there for making it so. But it’s enough to say that this event was one of those rare occasions in which all was right and fair, and the way it should be.”