Judge D’Army Bailey passed away at the age of 73. Judge Bailey may not be a widely known name among some in the Black community, but he created a lasting legacy at the location where the blood of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. was shed by an assassin’s bullet. That location was the Lorraine Motel and it later became a rundown blight in the community. But in 1991, Bailey changed the motel into the National Civil Rights Museum. Now, it is a worldwide destination to learn about the Civil Rights Movement in America.
Judge Bailey graduated from Yale University in 1967 and was highly respected in the Civil Rights community. He was nominated twice to serve on the Supreme Court of Tennessee and left a strong political legacy that championed the rights of the oppressed.
Judge Bailey was the author of two books: The Education of a Black Radical: Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey and Mine Eyes Have Seen: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Journey. In addition, he found time to be an actor with screen credits in the films How Stella Got Her Groove Back and The People vs. Larry Flynt.
Memphis Mayor AC Wharton wrote in tribute on Facebook:
“Judge Bailey’s passing is a tremendous loss to this community. My condolences to his family and many friends and colleagues. He was truly a renaissance man. Scholar, author, actor, activist, city councilor, jurist, husband and father.
As an attorney and judge the North Star of his universe was an unshakeable belief that our government, particularly the judicial branch, had as its sacred responsibility the protection of the powerless from the powerful. He showed that as my assistant in the Office of Public Defender where he held the awesome responsibility of defending indigent individuals in death penalty cases.
His expulsion from Southern University because of his civil rights activism, which would have crushed the will of weaker souls, only strengthened his resolve to pursue justice, not by half measure but by the whole. Well done. You will be missed.”