MEMPHIS, TN - A new portrait honoring the first African American Mayor of Shelby County is now hanging in the County's Hall of Mayors.
A lot of controversy surrounds the hefty price tag, of now Memphis Mayor, A C Wharton's portrait. The painting cost $13,000. However, Wharton calls it an important mark in history.
The newest portrait took Memphis artist Larry Walker about 80 hours to complete. He says, "This is another page in Memphis history that I have somehow carved my name into."
Walker is the first African American artist to paint a Mayor's portrait for Shelby County, but this milestone is marked for many reasons. Wharton says, "At the time I ran, the conventional wisdom was, it was impossible. The City had a black Mayor, the people of Shelby County will never tolerate two black Mayors."
Wharton not only won the election, he served two terms as County Mayor before leading the City. Shelby County's Mayor Mark Luttrell described Wharton as, "A man of integrity and honesty. He's had our community's best interest always at heart."
Wharton's portrait will join those of every County Mayor before him, but his sends a different message. Walker says, "I think the portrait hanging along with the other portraits says that Memphis is changing."
Wharton says he hopes it serves as a reminder, "I hope those who look at this portrait will stop and say this was one more milestone along the way of reaching that dream that Dr. King fought and died for."
Wharton says the City and County have come a long way, but still have a long way to go.