Vice President Joe Biden, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Philanthropist Pitt Hyde were the honorees at the National Civil Rights Museum’s 27th Annual Freedom Awards.
It is the museum’s signature event that honors outstanding individuals for their contributions to civil and human rights.
All three of the honorees were recognized Wednesday night, not only for their work in Memphis, but across the nation. Hundreds of people packed the Orpheum Theatre to praise the works of these men during a star-studded ceremony.
One of the honorees, J.R. Pitt Hyde III, the creator of AutoZone, is also credited for helping to turn the Lorraine Motel into the National Civil Rights Museum.
“This all started with trying to turn a tragic sight with something positive for Memphis and for the country. And of course it comes so far in all of those respects and it’s just great in being associated with it all these years,” Hyde said.
The event started with a Pre-Show Gala at the Halloran Centre, followed by the awards ceremony at the Orpheum.
“Every year we kind of want to get a mix. Now usually we try to get men and women, this year it was just one of those things that fell where we had all men. But three really honorable men I think,” said Terri Freeman, President of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Other honorees include Reverend Jesse Jackson Senior who played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement and Vice President Joe Biden who has been recognized for his work in criminal justice and internal affairs.
“We need to renew this struggle now, we need to renew the fight, because when it comes to freedom what we often find is hope often follows on the same track as hate,” Biden said during his acceptance speech.
The City of Memphis looks forward to this annual event.
“As a Celebration of Civil Rights and Civil Rights leaders it’s important not only for Memphis but for the entire country and Memphis has been on the leading edge of that for 50 years and we are celebrating that legacy tonight,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
There was also a special tribute to the late Aretha Franklin. Franklin’s son and grandchildren attended the Freedom Awards in her honor.