Today, 8 January, is the 80th birthday of Elvis Presley. Born to Vernon Elvis Presley and Gladys Love Presley (née Smith) in 1935, the ‘King that Rock and also Roll’ left one indelible note on American renowned culture. In celebration, we current a brief extract native Elvis Presley: A southern Life through Joel Williamson.

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One picture of the little Presley family records the essence of their stays then and also thereafter. Elvis, around three year old, is posed through Gladys and also Vernon. Elvis is standing, and his parents room sitting ~ above either side of him.

The exact date of the snapshot is unknown. Years later it verified up in the picture collection that the official Elvis Presley fan Club in Leicester, England. Interviews through pediatricians, pediatric nurses, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and also grandfathers have estimated Elvis’s age.

The blank, clean, contempt gray elevator is most likely the concrete wall of the brand-new Lee ar jail in Tupelo. Vernon is a prisoner, having been arrested ~ above November 16, 1937, because that forging a check. The county jail had actually recently been constructed by the works Progress management (WPA), a new Deal task to rental the unemployed. Previously, ar prisoners had been lodged in the run-down town jail. Only the white prisoners were relocated to the new jail.


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In the photograph, mother, child, and also father space close, human body to body together if huddled against a coming minute of separation. Gladys’s left arm reaches behind and throughout Elvis’s ago to Vernon. Her open up hand rests easy on Vernon’s left shoulder, together if to hold him in gently, to affirm her presence with him. It is a hand that looks for to comfort, however its loose openness signals she powerlessness.

Vernon had actually been charged with forging a check on Orville Bean, the dairy product farmer that was his landlord and employer. He had actually been arrested and arraigned throughout the fall term the criminal court. That pled no guilty, however he would certainly not acquire a speedy trial. His plea came too late because that him to it is in tried in the loss term that court. His situation would have to wait for the spring term, which began six months after that Monday, may 23, 1938. Before the court convened the spring, the local records were full of suggestions that the docket to be overfull and that righteousness in Lee County must be meted out much more rapidly 보다 before.

Only days prior to Vernon’s instance would have actually been tried, he readjusted his plea come guilty. Justice quickly followed. On Wednesday, may 25, Judge thomas H. Johnston sentenced Vernon to three years in the state penitentiary. He acquired no credit transaction for the 6 months he had actually spent in the county jail. ~ sentencing come the worried wait before the prison guards trucked him off to Parchman Farm.

On Saturday, may 28, Circuit Court salesperson Joe J. Kilgo composed out the papers committing Vernon and also eleven other convicts to Parchman. The twelve males waited in the county jail because that the dreaded come of “Long Chain Charley,” a sergeant top top the guard force at Parchman who circulated with the state collecting convicts for transfer to prison. He constantly brought a long chain come which he bound his detainees to stop their escape.

Six month in the county jail wait for a trial had actually been negative enough, but there was always at least some hope because that relief. Orville Bean might decide not to press charges against Vernon. Relatives and also friends could somehow intervene. If it pertained to a trial, a good lawyer can rise to safeguard him and also the jury can find the innocent. Having adjusted his plea to guilty, Vernon faced the certainty of serving at tough labor in a notoriously challenging prison for three long years, years in i m sorry he might not come house every night to his wife and also child in their tiny two-room wooden house in eastern Tupelo no one earn money to support them.

Sensing the pathos in the photograph does no require expertise of that history. The body of the man and woman space tense through anxiety and dread. The son is anxious and confused. Vernon has put his hat on his head as if making ready to leave. He encounters the camera, however his eyes reduced to his left as if city hall fearfully for someone or other to show up that he currently hears. Gladys additionally stares come the left, she body stiff.

The tiny boy’s stare is much less focused, as if he were told come look in ~ the camera yet senses other he demands to view off to the left too. The wears bib overalls over a dark, long-sleeved shirt, charmingly trimmed v white cuffs and a white collar. Gladys is a talented seamstress. She wears a flower-print dress. Her dress, prefer Elvis’s shirt, is attractively set off by a collar that a various color. Elvis, like his father, wears a hat. His cap seems nearly man-sized, cocked in ~ a rakish angle on his round tiny head. His full cherubic lips room twisted under to the ideal as if that realizes that he have to say something and set his jaw in part certain way to assert an attitude, yet he doesn’t know what to say or how.

This is the earliest picture of Elvis. The photographer to be most most likely a girlfriend or a loved one who had actually driven Gladys and also Elvis a celafilador.netle of miles over from their house in east Tupelo. It was a defining moment in the stays of Elvis, Gladys, and Vernon Presley, individually and collectively. The really fact the the visit, the camera, and also the one photograph that has been preserved shows that they understood that they to be at a vital juncture in their lives. The petty and foolish crime that Vernon committed in the autumn of 1937, once he was twenty-one, Gladys twenty-five, and Elvis less than three, deeply marked their lives.


Joel Williamson, Lineberger Professor Emeritus of the liberal arts at the college of north Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author, most recently, that Elvis Presley: A southerly Life. That is the writer of a number of landmark functions on southern culture, consisting of William Faulkner and also Southern history (elafilador.net, 1993) and also The Crucible that Race: Black-White relations in the American South because Emancipation (elafilador.net, 1984), which winner the Francis Parkman Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy publication Award, and the Ralph Emerson Award. Both publications were finalists because that the Pulitzer Prize.


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