In Memoriam

Memphis has lost many great people over the years. We hope to memorialize these fellow citizens on this page. If you feel someone should be added please complete this form.

John E Harkins

Dr John E. Harkins and his wife Georgia, are both fifth-generation Memphians with decades-long, passionate commitments to Memphis-area history and to institutions serving that history. John taught history for thirty-plus years, with more than twenty-five of those years being at Memphis University School. He has written dozens of articles on Mid-South history and three highly regarded books on Memphis and Shelby County topics. These include Metropolis of the American Nile, MUS Century Book and Historic Shelby County. The first two of these have also been republished in revised editions. 

By way of preparation in local history, John served six years as Memphis and Shelby County archivist, eight years on the Tennessee Public Records Commission, eight years on the Shelby County Historical Commission and four years on the Tennessee Historical Commission. During the 1980’s, John produced and hosted a local history talk show on the public library’s cable television channel. 

In the private sector, Harkins served eight years as president of the West Tennessee Historical society, two years as president of Descendants of Early Settlers of Shelby County and eight years in various offices on the board of the Davies Manor (museum home) Association. Over the decades, John has also held memberships in the Tennessee Historical Society, Memphis Heritage Inc., the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities, the Tennessee Preservation Trust, the Jackson Purchase Historical Society and the Bartlett Historical Society. 

Roger W. Fitch

Roger W. Fitch

Line of Duty Death on the Memphis Fire Department. Private assigned to Engine 7, died of smoke inhalation while fighting a fire at the Owen Graham Salvage and Sundry Store at 1333 Madison Avenue at 10:03 a.m. on March 21, 1965. Five other firefighters were overcome by smoke and transported to area hospitals. Roger Fitch, 35, had been with the department for ten years. He was married and the father of one daughter.

Joe Walk

Joseph E. Walk passed away July 18, 2015. Born in Garland, TN. (Tipton County), June 1, 1932, he lived most of his life in the Memphis community of Highland Heights, where he attended Treadwell School and graduated from Memphis State University. He worked at Sears, Roebuck for 25 years and served on the Memphis Police Department for 19 years as a reserve and patrol officer. 

Joe Walk was one of the most thorough researchers I have ever known, a very quiet historian who did not enjoy the limelight, and one who worked without a computer. I began historical research on Memphis Streets and Alleyways in 1988 at the Memphis Pubic Library. I was struggling with some material when a tall thin older gentleman sat down beside me and said, “here is what you need.” I thanked him and after some time talking, I found out that we had a lot in common. I spent months in the library and every time I was there, he was there also. A friendship was created around our love of history. 

I was thrilled when Mr. Walk proofed my book Memory Lanes, for historical correctness. We both worked on the History of Memphis Theaters, which was used on a WKNO program. 

Joe Walk wrote extensive histories on the following subjects: 

  • Highland Heights, Treadwell High School, and the surrounding areas 
  • Memphis Executive and Legislative Government 
  • Chronological History of Selected Local Office and Government Buildings 
  • African American Police Officers 
  • Memphis and Shelby County Government Buildings, Jails, Workhouses 
  • City Hall the early years from 1820 to 1888 
  • Memphis Fire Department from 1830 to 1992 
  • The History of the Memphis Police Department
  • History of Line of Duty Deaths, Memphis Police, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, and the U. S. Marshal Service 

Joe Walk served on the boards of the local Fire Buff Club and the West Tennessee Historical Society. Any writer, who writes about the story of Highland Heights, has obtained their information from him or his work. 

He was my mentor and friend, and always approachable for research assistance. In later years, he and I helped each other locate historical information on subjects that we were working on. I sure miss him now. 

Written by Joe Lowry