Jimmy Ogle Steps Aside, Robert Montgomery Steps In for History Walking Tours

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Robert Montgomery (right) listens intently to Jimmy Ogle (left) on one of Ogle’s last downtown history walking tours.

For about 40 years Jimmy Ogle has been involved in Memphis entertainment and recreation, much of it centered on downtown Memphis. With a memory honed on sports statistics, he seemingly remembers almost everything he has learned about the city. For more than a decade, he has shared his knowledge of the history of Memphis in his “Jimmy Ogle Talks and Tours.” A major feature is his free downtown history walking tours which he has held each spring and autumn.

 
Ogle’s downtown history walking tours have been filled with facts and fun. Even if you are on a particular tour you have been on before, Ogle is likely to surprise you with new information. He says he has about 150 hours worth of Memphis history in his head so it is understandable he can cite new tidbits every now and then.

There are a number of people with great insight into Memphis history and they contribute mightily to the knowledge of the city’s heritage. Ogle will cite them from time to time as a source for some of his information or recommend a book written by one of those historians. Although Ogle became the official Shelby County Historian in 2014, he used to deny he was a historian, saying was a story teller, telling the story of Memphis. With his focus on recreation for much of his career and his personality, Ogle made history fun even for those who may have struggled with history courses in college.

There are probably few things that could draw Jimmy Ogle away from the city he apparently loves and a city that loves him. One of those things is sharing more time with his grandchildren. So Jimmy Ogle, the quintessential Memphis history buff has moved to Knoxville to have more time with his grandkids. He is concluding his downtown tours with some special ones which are being video recorded on behalf of the Downtown Memphis Commission. Ogle will be back from time to time and says he may occasionally host a tour. He has been identified as a true asset to the city that will be missed.

Ogle’s footsteps will not be left unfilled, however. Robert Montgomery, a Blue Suede Brigade member, has been designated to continue the downtown walking tours and Ogle is turning over boxes of resource material to Montgomery to help him prepare. Montgomery has also been attending and closely listening on these final tours Ogle has been giving.

The Blue Suede Brigade is a contingent of about 30 people working for the Downtown Memphis Commission who provide directions and other helpful information to tourists and residents alike as brigadiers walk or bicycle downtown. In recent years, the Brigade has also taken up some security responsibilities and they now wear shirts or jackets that have “public safety officer” printed on them. They are not police. One might say they are more like extra eyes on downtown ready to summon police if needed, or medical assistance if there is an instance which calls for that.

Montgomery has shown an extraordinary interest in the city and its history, especially for a 26 year old. It seems many begin to value history later in life but it would appear  Montgomery has gotten a head start. He is a graduate of Evangelical Christian School located in the Memphis metro area and attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

This writer has attended several of Ogle’s tours and has wondered if anybody would continue them after his departure from the city. If someone did, would they have the zeal for Memphis and its history that Ogle brought to his talks? It was hard to imagine who could do that. Montgomery may well be the guy. At his age he obviously does not bring as much first hand knowledge of the recent decades in Memphis as Ogle does. Ogle has passed along those boxes of material from which he drew a lot of his information and perhaps best of all, Montgomery can call on Ogle has a resource. The only problem may be that if he asks Ogle a question he may get a spoken dissertation on the subject. Ogle can stop talking but maybe the only time he has done so was when he strained his voice and the doctor told him not to say anything for three days. Fortunately for listeners, Ogle’s oration has proven quite interesting to hundreds, perhaps thousands, that have attended his history events.

Jimmy Ogle surely will be missed. Robert Montgomery is getting ready and appears more than willing to take up the slack in Ogle’s absence. Memphians can look forward to the continuation of the downtown history walking tours.

It’s been quite a ride, uh, walk, Jimmy. Carry on, Robert.

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Milton: We’re sending them [Shelby County Schools] children that have challenges that they’ll never be able to correct.

June 7, 2019 – Shelby County Schools presented its $1.4 billion dollar budget to the County Commission May 29 but said they need more than what is in their budget. Superintendent Joris Ray said the operating budget needs $7.5 million more and asked the County Commission to provide it. The school system is also asking for more for its capital improvements budget.

milton-reginaldSeveral County Commissioners spoke in favor of the $7.5 million request. One, however, had a different point of view. The reasoning behind Commissioner Reginald Milton’s viewpoint is one that is not often heard from elected officials when discussing funding for education. The Daily Memphian briefly reported on this in their story about the school system’s budget presentation. Milton’s comments are so different than what has been said publicly by others over the years regarding schools, a fuller coverage may be warranted. Here is what Milton said on the subject at a May 29, 2019, County Commission committee meeting.

County Commissioner Reginald Milton: “You said 23% of our students are college ready.”

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray: “Yes.”

Milton: “How many of our valedictorians are prepared for college?”

Ray: “The number of valedictorians prepared for college, probably 54%.”

Milton: “So about half of our valedictorians are not prepared for college.”

Ray: “Roughly.”

Milton: “Right. Do you care about our kids?

Ray: “Care about them deeply, sir.”

Milton: Do you love the children you are working with?”

Ray: “Love and”

Milton: “I know you do. I know the work you are doing you are 100% committed. Every day of your life this is what you are here to do. I believe you. I sincerely do. Twenty-three percent are college ready. Something’s wrong, right? And commissioners, the point I’m trying to bring here is that the reality is that they are an institution. That’s what they are. They are just, they are an entity that we’ve created and every time we have problems we turn to them. If our children aren’t eating right, we say you take care of it. If our children have mental issues, you take care of it. If our children don’t have a place to go in the afternoon, you take, we throw everything on this institution and expect this institution to solve the problem. The truth is they will never solve this problem. They’re an institution and they’re in to do a specific thing and that’s to educate our children.

We’re sending them children that have challenges that they’ll never be able to correct. There are problems that happen before they walk into the doors of this institution. And no matter how much we tweak it, now if we keep telling them to do it, they’re going to do it because they’ll never say no to us. We can say we want you to do, we want you to solve all these problems, none of them will ever say no. They’ll say, yes commissioner, give us more money. And they will try. And they will fail. The reality is that the real challenges is not that these people are not doing their jobs. They are doing their jobs but we’re giving them tasks beyond their scope.

“We have to invest in other issues that go beyond education and that requires that sometimes we have to, here comes the bad part, say no to you. That sometimes these dollars we cannot direct to you because you’re not going to solve it. But we need to address other issues.

“I walked through south Memphis and Orange Mound, I see roofs that are leaking and falling down, there’s mold, black mold in these homes these children are breathing it, there’s just, that’s this and there’s lead in these communities. You are not going to solve those problems. And it doesn’t matter how much money I give you, you’re not going to solve it. So there has to be a point where I sit there and say, you know what, no. I’m going to take this chunk of money and I’m going to give it to this and I’m going to have them address it,this, and because I know if we can solve this it’s going to solve your problem. And I can say that because none of you can say this: that I have ever said no to you when you come before us for funding. I have never once said no. On the $7.5 million: no. I think we need, our budgets are tight, we need to be looking in another direction. I think you do great jobs but we need to be looking outside of you because you can’t solve all these problems.”

With that, Milton relinquished the floor.

There have been about $75 million in proposed amendments to the budgets offered by Mayor Lee Harris, of which about two thirds are said to be requests from Shelby County Schools.

The County Commission next meets Monday, June 10 and plans to pass the budget at its June 24 meeting. The fiscal year for which this budget will apply starts July 1.