A group of Memphis volunteers will clean up Wednesday on Patriots Day two historic African-American cemeteries, which they say have become eyesores.
The company that owns the two historic cemeteries, that have many prominent Memphians buried there, filed for bankruptcy.
One of the final resting places at Mt. Carmel cemetery is for Tom Lee, who on May 8, 1925, helped rescue several Memphians and their families after their steamship capsized on the Mississippi River.
While he couldn't swim, Lee saved 32 people from drowning, making five trips to shore and back on his skiff to save lives. Just a few miles away from a statue honoring Lee is the final resting place for that hero and many others at Mt. Carmel cemetery.
No words are really necessary. The pictures tell you all you need to know.
Joyce Hester, who lives down the street from Mt. Carmel cemetery, and members of the Memphis Police Department's Community Outreach Unit are organizing a clean up day to make this final resting place a more respectable place for those who were buried.
Friends and relatives never for a moment thought this sacred place would ever look like this.
"The people that own it is Kevin Heins Hays and they filed for bankruptcy," Hester said. "They own Mt. Carmel, also Hollywood located off Hernando Road."
Hester actually found Lee's grave marker among all the weeds. She said there are other famous Memphians buried here.
"We have Tom Lee, we just discovered his grave located it over here," she said. "He's an American hero who saved 32 passengers from a sinking steamship. We have Lucie Campbell. She's a music composer. She composed music for people such as Mahalia Jackson. We also have Walter 'Furry' Lewis. He's located over in the Hollywood cemetery off Hernando Road. He's a Blues and guitar player, and a lot of other people. The graves here go back to the 1800s.
For the sake of the famous and not so famous buried here Hester organized Wednesday's clean up day at the historic cemeteries.
"We're going to have a community clean up at 7 a.m.," she said. "Just bring themselves. This is sponsored by the community outreach program and crime prevention unit. There are three units that are going to come and bring supplies."
"If anyone in the community wants to come out and give us a hand, we would be greatly appreciate the help," added MPD Lt. Robert Chalmars. "These are someone's grandmother or grandfather. You would want them to be taken care of if they were your folks. It's an historical site. Tom Lee, as you know, he's buried here. He was a giver to the community and tomorrow we are going to give back."
It's really hard to believe this is even a cemetery. In some places the tombstones are completely covered by ground cover. Other places, trees have fallen over on the graves and completely obscured them. But if you would like to help out all you got to do is show up at 7 a.m. Bring some work gloves and be ready to do something good to help clean this up.