Crump Becomes 'Boss'

November 5, 1909

In the closest election in city history — yes, closer than Hackett-Herenton in 1991 — E.H. Crump was elected Memphis mayor by 79 votes, beginning a period of unprecedented control over Memphis that earned him the name "Boss." Though he controlled local government for decades, Crump was, by comparison, a short-timer, officially, at City Hall.

On the same day Crump was elected he was charged, too, with assault and battery for a confrontation with a black voter at one of the city’s polling places.

The mixup in the Fifth was a sensational one, and Candidate Crump emerged with a badly bruised fist. The trouble is alleged to have occurred when an official ballot, taken from the polling place, was found upon the negro. It was charged that the negro entered the booth, secured the ballot and then took it with him to the street for the purpose of marking it for an ignorant voter. Mr. Crump’s attention was drawn to the matter, and before the trouble was over the mayoralty candidate had handed the negro a right swing to the point of the jaw.

E.H. Crump was elected Memphis mayor in 1909. (The Commercial Appeal)