Written by Joe Lowry with research and editorial assistance by Trish Gully.
Joseph Newberger, born June 12, 1858, was a multi-millionaire, philanthropist, and world-known outstanding cotton man. He was born in Coffeeville, Mississippi, was raised in the Catholic faith and attended the Jesuit Springhill College in Mobile Alabama. He became director of Methodist Hospital, and principal owner of more than 26 of the largest Federal Compress companies located throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. His company owned oceangoing cargo ships and had offices and employees all over the world. He was a member of the New York Cotton Exchange, and European Cotton Exchange.
The Newburger Cotton Company name was known to everyone in the cotton business. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, he raised money to champion great causes. As a member of the Odd Fellows he supported Porter Leath Orphanage. He raised money for the construction of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. While serving as President of the Congregation of the Children of Israel, he went to Constantinople to study the construction of St Sophia’s so he could return to Memphis and build Temple Israel on Poplar Ave. He was a Republican, a Mason and in 1912, when he built his mansion located at 168 E. Parkway South, (Memphis Theological Seminary) it cost him $500,000. The 5,000 square foot home was the largest mansion in Memphis at the time. He died after having a heart attack while visiting his brother in New York City on December 27, 1926.
In 1909 a story in The Guardian, a Liverpool, England newspaper stated he sold more than 10,200,000.00 bales of cotton worldwide. In the twenties, he was known as Memphis’ greatest Philanthropist.
I have always been impressed with Memphians who quietly championed good causes and Joseph Newberger was one of the finest.