Memphis, TN--I've been in Memphis for almost three weeks and have recorded and interviewed three figures for my audio documentary on the history of Front Street in Memphis: William B. "Billy" Dunavant Jr., whose company, Dunavant Enterprises, was one of the world's largest cotton firms until 2010, when Mr. Dunavant sold his cotton business to another Memphis firm, Allenberg Cotton, which is owned by the international commodities conglomerate Louis Dreyfus and is today located in Cordova, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis; Bill Griffin, who for many years was a cotton merchant for a Memphis company named Block and Unobsky and who today runs William B. Griffin Cotton, a risk-management consultancy; and Rudi Scheidt, who was a top executive with Hohenberg Cotton, which in 1975 sold out to Cargill and today does business as Cargill Cotton. I am tracking down two other former cotton men to interview. I hope to return to Durham with five interviews in the can, as they say. Then I'll take stock of what I have and see what kind of piece I can produce.
On a related note, I encourage readers to visit the Cotton Museum in the Memphis Cotton Exchange. The main part of the museum is on the old trading floor of the Exchange, with its spectacular fifty-foot blackboard on which, back in the day, up-to-the-minute cotton prices from the major markets were recorded. In what used to be telephone booths the museum has computer monitors on which visitors can watch videos related to cotton. Among the videos are some wonderful oral histories by people who were directly involved in the cotton business in Memphis. There is a children's section as well, and an attractive gift shop.