WASHINGTON: Recently President Trump awarded this country’s highest honor, the American Medal of Freedom to Elvis Presley, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Miriam Adelson, a doctor, and wife of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Also honored were retiring longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and Alan Page, who began a legal career after leaving the NFL.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the country’s highest honor for a civilian.
The President chooses people who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors, the White House said in announcing the news.
In announcing Presley, the White House notes that he “defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world. Elvis fused gospel, country, and rhythm and blues to create a sound all his own, selling more than a billion records. Presley also served nearly 2 years in the United States Army, humbly accepting the call to serve despite his fame.”
Elvis Presley Enterprises President/CEO Jack Soden was there to receive the honor on behalf of the Presley family. Some statements saying that neither his estranged wife Priscella or daughter Lisa Marie would attend the ceremonies due to their dislike of the President.
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo Mississippi in 1935 as the surviving twin son of Vernon and Gladys Presley. His twin, Jesse was stillborn. He grew up in a two-room house, moving with his family at the age of 13 to move with his family to Memphis.
Presley’s rendition of “That’s All Right” by black Delta Blues writer Arthur Crudup was the beginning for Presley’s career. Presley often spoke of his love and appreciation of black music and black artists.
At one point Presley was accused of saying that “the only thing negroes can do for me is to buy my records and shine my shoes.” Presley denied many times that he ever said such a thing and made a point of stating that those who knew him would know it not to be true.
Jet magazine’s Louie Robinson investigated the 1957 rumor, interviewing Presley. Robinson would say that Presley never uttered the derogatory attribution. Blues singer Ivory Joe Hunter, spoke in glowing terms of Presley, stating “He was one of the greatest.”
The King of Rock and Roll
Robert Johnson, the entertainment reporter at the Memphis Press-Scimitar, in an article he wrote in May of 1956. He called Elvis “the fledgling king of rock’n’roll.“It is not clear when Presley became known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” but in any event, it was a subjective literary depiction as informal as “The Sultan of Swat.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom originated in 1945 under President Truman as an award for civilian service during WWII. President Kennedy began the practice again. Subsequently, the Medal of Freedom has been awarded to a number of prominent Americans in a multitude of fields.
Media seeking evil in the crotch of a tree
Now we are told by certain media types that there is a political undercurrent to a particular recipient (though deceased). As though Presley was not worthy of the award for his talent alone. Or that President Trump happens to like his music. There must be something nefarious about the President awarding the American Medal of Freedom to a Mississippi born and bred Southerner.
The Washington Post’s pop culture critic Chris Richards called Trump’s move “a little nod to the good old days, back when black visionaries could invent rock-and-roll, but only a white man could become the king.”
“Yes, Trump is sending a message here,” Richards wrote.
Reviewing President Obama’s recipients, one might question if he was not rewarding those who supported him. In 2016 he awarded twenty medals. Some of those medals going to very pro-Obama and now very anti-Trump personalities including Robert De Niro, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks, Lorne Michaels and Bruce Springsteen.
So how many of previous awardees have had their Medals given as a nod to a certain group?
- Walt Disney in 1964, as Lyndon Johnson’s nod to the Song of the South and those who loved Tales of Uncle Remus
- Perhaps Robert Penn Warren, a charter member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers
- Eudora Welty, Pulitzer Prize winner from Jackson, Mississippi.
These were of course 1980 nods to Jimmy Carter’s good old Southern brethren who denied blacks “kingship.”
Always the politician, President Regan offered an equal opportunity nod to Jackie Robinson’s followers to keep the black/white score from a white rout.
Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter was one of the first recipients of the Medal for Freedom from President Kennedy. One of the last to whom President Carter awarded was Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.
Presumably, both were getting the “award nod” for having not disassociated themselves from Hugo Black, with whom they served, who not only served as a Justice on the Supreme Court but also served the KKK.
Elvis Presley, talent yes. Racist no.
Elvis took a God-given talent and with meager beginnings built a life around that which he loved: song and dance. He did it in a state where the population was 45% black. Any Mississippi native (as I am) will tell you, whether in the days of segregation or after the civil rights marches and legislation that if you didn’t have black friends and associates you either were in a coma or remained in bed 24/7.
Elvis loved music, mostly black blues, and honky-tonk rock-a-billy. Any claim that he was crowned an idiosyncratic king, although he was less deserving than blacks, does a disservice not to Elvis, but to blacks.
President Donald J. Trump Presents Medal of Freedom
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at a Medal of Freedom ceremony Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in the East Room of the White House. First Lady Melania Trump attends. (Official White House Photo by Amy Rossetti)