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Downtown Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Tom Lee Memorial

A very worthy Negro

 
 
Tom Lee Memorial Marker image. Click for full size.
November 8, 2007
1. Tom Lee Memorial Marker
Inscription.  Tom Lee with his boat “Zev” saved thirty-two lives when the steamer U.S. Norman sank about twenty miles below Memphis May 8, 1925. But he has a finer monument than this—an invisible one. A monument of kindliness, generosity, courage and bigness of heart. His good deeds were scattered everywhere that day and into eternity.

This monument erected by the grateful people of Memphis.

Watkins Overton • E. H. Crump, Chm. • John Heiskell • E. W. Hale • John Vesey • Abe Plough • Frank Tobey • O. P. Williams • H. S. Lewis • Walter Chandler • Joe Boyle • Jim Wood • Will Fowler • Claude Armour • Hugo Dixon • John T. Dwyer • Joe Curtis • Francis Andres • Col Garner Miller • Robert Fredericks
 
Erected 1954 by the grateful people of Memphis.
 
Topics. This historical marker and memorial is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansHeroesWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is May 8, 1811.
 
Location. 35° 8.229′ N, 90° 3.775′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in
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Shelby County. It is in Downtown Memphis. Marker is on S. Riverside Blvd near Beale Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Memphis TN 38103, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Tom Lee Monument (approx. 0.2 miles away); They Passed This Way (approx. ¼ mile away); James A. Hyter, “Ol’ Man River” (approx. ¼ mile away); John James Audubon (approx. ¼ mile away); The Blues Foundation (approx. ¼ mile away); Site of First Memphis Telephone (approx. 0.3 miles away); The John Alexander Austin House (approx. 0.3 miles away); Here, on April 4, 1968 … / … Today, a Place of Remembrance (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Memphis.
 
More about this memorial. During the severe summer wind storm of 2003, the granite obelisk that had served as a memorial to Tom Lee since 1954 was shattered into several pieces. In concert with the redevelopment of the Tom Lee Park area, the memorial was relocated on August 14, 2006 to its current home, sitting opposite a new memorial in Tom Lee Park.

Another storm demolished the third obelisk on June 17, 2017. Efforts are being made to replace it as well. Estimated cost is $60,000 due to trying to match the granite.
 
Regarding Tom Lee Memorial. The memorial commemorates local hero Tom Lee
Tom Lee Memorial Marker image. Click for full size.
November 8, 2007
2. Tom Lee Memorial Marker
who, in 1925 despite his inability to swim, saved thirty-two people from drowning in the Mississippi River from a capsized steamer. Tom Lee witnessed the M.E. Norman capsize in the swift current about 15 miles downriver from Memphis at Cow Island Bend. Although he could not swim, he rescued 32 people with five trips to shore. Lee acted quickly, calmly and with no regard for his own safety, continuing to search after night fell. Because of his efforts, only 23 people died.

To honor the hero, the Memphis Engineers Club raised enough money to purchase a house for Lee and his wife.

Tom Lee died of cancer on April 1, 1952 at John Gaston Hospital. Two years after his death, the park along the Memphis Riverfront was named in his honor and this granite obelisk marker was erected.

In October 2006, a new bronze sculpture was erected in the park to commemmorate the event and to honor the civil hero. The sculpture statue depicts Tom Lee rescuing a survivor in the Mississippi River.
 
Tom Lee image. Click for full size.
3. Tom Lee
Tom Lee Monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mary Johnston-Clark, November 5, 2006
4. Tom Lee Monument
This sculpture and plaza was added to the Tom Lee Memorial in 2006 and is about 200 yards away from the original obelisk. The sculpture, by David Alan Clark, is designed to give visitors the feeling that they are in the water awaiting rescue. The waterline of Lee's boat is about at eye level.
Only pedestal is left from the 2017 storm. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2018
5. Only pedestal is left from the 2017 storm.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 7, 2023. It was originally submitted on January 25, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 4,765 times since then and 120 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on January 25, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.   4. submitted on June 17, 2012, by Mary Johnston-Clark of Lander, Wyoming.   5. submitted on April 8, 2018, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Jul. 12, 2024