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Myron Lowery

City Council Member and former Mayor pro tempore Myron Lowery was born in 1947, in Columbus, Ohio. He received his B.A. degree from LeMoyne-Owens College and his M.S. degree from New York University. While at New York University, he taught for three years in New York public school with the National Teachers’ Corp. At Dr. Hollis Price’s invitation, Lowery went to works as an anchor at WMC-TV in 1973, where he remained until 1983.

Lowery sued WMC-TV for racial discrimination in 1981, making a successful settlement that paved the way for many other employment discrimination suits by African Americans. He then went on to work as press secretary for Congressman Harold Ford Sr. and as manager of corporate relations at FedEx. In 1991, Lowery ran for Memphis City Council and won. Five years later, he was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention when President Bill Clinton won the Democratic primary. He also served as a superdelegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, at which Barack Obama won the Democratic primary. In his role on City Council, Lowery has initiated a successful gun buy-back program, the installation of red light cameras at busy intersections, and the reform of some of the City Council’s discussion processes.

In 2009, the mayor of Memphis, Willie Wilbur Herenton, resigned from his post as mayor, leaving Lowery as mayor pro tempore for the next ninety days. During that time, Lowery sought to promote transparency in city government, asking many officials from Herenton’s corrupt administration to resign.

Lowery is a member of the board of directors for the National League of Cities. He has been a member of the board of many civic organizations, including the Tennessee Municipal League, Leadership Memphis, The Memphis Zoo, and the Headstart Policies Council. He has also served as vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists, chairman of the Democratic Municipal Officials, and treasurer of the United Negros’ College Fund’s National Alumni Council. He holds an honorary degree from Southeastern College of Technology. Lowery has been honored as one of the Three Outstanding Young Men in the state of Tennessee and Ten Outstanding Young Men in America by the Tennessee Jaycees, and in 2003, he was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.

Accession Number

A2010.088

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/27/2010

Last Name

Lowery

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

LeMoyne-Owen College

New York University

University of Tennesee

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Myron

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

LOW05

Favorite Season

Fall, Summer

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Take Care. Life Is Good.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

12/26/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue Chicken Ribs

Short Description

Television anchor, city council member, and mayor Myron Lowery (1946 - ) has served in Memphis city government for nineteen years, pioneered African American participation in television journalism, and paved the way for successful employee discrimination lawsuits by African Americans.

Employment

WMC TV

FedEx

Memphis City Government

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Myron Lowery's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Myron Lowery's discusses how he began his career in journalism

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Myron Lowery's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Myron Lowery lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Myron Lowery describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Myron Lowery describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Myron Lowery talks about his family's move from Jonesville, South Carolina to Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Myron Lowery talks about his family's life in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Myron Lowery talks about his mother's life in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Myron Lowery describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Myron Lowery talks about his parents meeting and his brothers

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Myron Lowery talks about growing up poor and how it influenced his decision to pursue his education

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Myron Lowery describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Myron Lowery describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Myron Lowery talks about his paper route in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Myron Lowery talks about living with his great-grandparents in his junior and senior years of high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Myron Lowery talks about the schools that he attended in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Myron Lowery talks about a male mentor

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Myron Lowery reflects on the role of church in his childhood and his views on religion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Myron Lowery reflects upon his oratory skills and his self-confidence

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Myron Lowery expresses his regret at not attending the March on Washington in 1963

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Myron Lowery talks about football in Columbus, Ohio, while he was growing up there

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Myron Lowery talks about the integrated schools in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Myron Lowery talks about his entry into extemporaneous speaking while in high school, and his debate partner, Myran Lewis

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Myron Lowery talks about reading about the Civil Rights Movement while growing up in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Myron Lowery discusses his decision to attend LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee, and his experience there

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Myron Lowery describes his experiences while studying at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Myron Lowery reflects upon Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination and his views of the civil rights struggle

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Myron Lowery describes his joining the National Teachers' Corps after graduating from LeMoyne-Owen's College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Myron Lowery describes his experience in New York City and becoming the first full-time African American reporter at WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Myron Lowery talks about his early years as a reporter at WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee, and his public affairs show, 'Minority Report'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Myron Lowery talks about co-founding the Memphis [Tennessee] Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Myron Lowery discusses his EEO lawsuit against WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Myron Lowery reflects upon his decision to file an employment discrimination lawsuit against WMC-TV, and about minorities in broadcast journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Myron Lowery talks about the success of his public affairs show, 'Minority Report' on WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Myron Lowery talks about his experience at WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee and his EEO lawsuit against them

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Myron Lowery talks about his public affairs show, 'Minority Report' on WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Myron Lowery talks about his running for the Memphis City Council in 1983, and serving as Congressman Harold Ford, Sr.'s press secretary

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Myron Lowery describes his experience as press secretary to U.S. Congressman Harold Ford Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Myron Lowery discusses his election to the Memphis City Council in 1991

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Myron Lowery describes his experience as a senior communications specialist at FedEx

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Myron Lowery discusses his lawsuit against FedEx, and his decision to retire

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Myron Lowery describes his relationship with Mayor Willie Herenton of Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Myron Lowery describes his relationship with Mayor Willie Herenton of Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Myron Lowery describes his brief tenure as Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Myron Lowery talks about speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 1996

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Myron Lowery describes his meeting with the Dalai Lama

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Myron Lowery talks about the City of Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Myron Lowery talks about being a representative to the Democratic National Convention and President Barack Obama's administration

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Myron Lowery reflects upon his service on the Memphis City Council

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Myron Lowery describes his hopes and concerns for the community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Myron Lowery talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Myron Lowery talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Myron Lowery describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$7

DATitle
Myron Lowery discusses his EEO lawsuit against WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee
Myron Lowery describes his brief tenure as Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee
Transcript
Now let me explain why they did that. Because I was a weekend anchor [at WMC-TV, Memphis, Tennessee] for ten years, from '73 [1973] to '83 [1983], but I could not get promoted to the weeknight anchorship. And the weeknight anchors had contracts. I didn't have a contract. They had a clothing allowance. I wasn't given any money for clothes, and they made much more money than I did. They even bought a weeknight anchor, his name was Clyde Lee, a Porsche to stay in the city. Clyde had an offer from another cit--"Clyde, we'll get you a car"--bought him a Porsche. And I was making, oh, less than $20,000 a year at the time. And I told the station, I said, "Now, wait a minute, all I want is the opportunity. If I don't have the numbers then you take me off. I want the opportunity to do the weeknight." By the way, and speaking of the numbers, I had a 53 percent share of the audience on the weekend. Now stop and think about that for a moment. In this day and age with cable, with all the stations, no one would ever get a 53 percent share of anything again. But on the weekend news, at the time there were only four stations, I had a 53 percent share of that audience. So everybody was watching me. And my numbers were good. My anchoring was not the best, but I wasn't the worst. They promoted other people before me and gave them that chance before they took them off and never gave me that chance. So, I eventually sued the company and won. And my lawsuit was described by the judge as one of the worst cases of subtle discrimination in the history of broadcast journalism, and he ruled in my favor. There was a five day trial. Let me give you a time capsule on this. I filed the EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] complaint in 1980. I left the station in 1983. I left because I was being set up to be fired over some minor incident. The minor incident was that I knew Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee Lewis had gotten married. His--the wife that he married drowned ten days later. And 'Entertainment Tonight' called for the video, and I sent the video to 'Entertainment Tonight.' They ran a twelve-second clip. And the station said you violated company policy because you didn't have permission. I said, "What are you talking about, we send stories to 'Entertainment Tonight' all the time." I did stories for 'NBC News,' news program service all the time. And they said, well, this was a violation of company policy. So I realized they were gonna set me up to fire me for that incident, and I quit. But anyway, you know, one story sort of leads to another here.$$So you filed--$$I filed the EEO complaint (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) You filed a lawsuit in--$$--in 1980.$$'80 [1980], okay.$$1980 was the EEO complaint.$$And didn't you quit?$$And you have to go through the--$$What year did you quit--$$I quit in 1983.$$Eighty-three [1983], okay.$$But you have to go through the EEO complaint before they give you the right to sue. So the lawsuit was filed. There was a nine day trial in 1985, nine days. The judge, Odell Horton, ruled in 1987. And at that time, he said this was the worst case of subtle discrimination in the history of broadcast journalism. By the way, Judge Horton's seventy-four page ruling can now be found in a book on employment discrimination period. I can't think of the--the, the title, but it's been written up, his case has been written up. By the way, if you go to Fastcase on the internet, Fastcase has 'Lowery v. WMC-TV.' You won't believe it if you read it. And Judge Odell Horton--I won on all counts. He gave me $100,000 in back pay, $100,000 in punitive damages, and penny-for-penny the price variation in salary between my salary and that of Mason Granger, a weeknight anchor, and that amounted to $74,000. So, at the time, 1987, that was unheard of. The first case ever won in broadcast journalism was mine. And, so I served to be a role model for the people coming up, and I--that case helped open the doors for many people here in Memphis [Tennessee] and around the country so that they would be treated equally.$Now that [Mayor Willie Herenton's resignation as the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee] was good for me, personally, because I had the opportunity to serve as mayor for eighty-seven days during the fall of 2009. I was council chair at the time, so I loved that opportunity. But it was ninety days of strife only because I tried to straighten up some of the stuff here at city hall that was difficult to do. I tried to fire the city attorney. The city attorney gave the mayor carte blanche on some things he wanted to do. And the council said you can't fire him. I had to do that with the permission of the council. They wanted to keep him on. And then he was being investigated by the local Shelby County attorney general. Well, he didn't come to work after thirty days that I was in office, and the city attorney eventually resigned because he was gonna be challenged in an ouster lawsuit. You know, I fired another attorney. He was working on the Beale Street case. This attorney was making $35,000 a month, one attorney handling one case for the city, and this was part time for him, this case. That was too much money to make. And we were not resolving the lawsuit. It was not--it was just lingering. He was the only one making money, so I fired that attorney, Ricky Wilkins. And folks didn't like this. I was shaking things up. When I was mayor, I had an open house at city hall. I invited the whole community to come up to the 7th Floor of city hall. People had never been to the mayor's office before. People worked in city hall had never been up to the 7th Floor. I said, "This is the people's office. Come and enjoy it." So I had an open and transparent government. I listed everything that I did as mayor. It's on the website right now by the way. If you go to the city's website and you look under the city council under my name, you'll see everything that I did every day at city hall as mayor. You'll see the number of dollars in contracts that I signed. So, I set the tone that our current mayor has continued to keep, that is open and transparent government. A C Wharton [mayor of Memphis] is now listing city contracts on the internet on the website. That hadn't been done before. You couldn't find out who was making what money from city government, and now we have a, a more openness in our government and our city is better for it.$$Okay.