Death Captures Crown Of Rock And Roll

August 17, 1977

It was shortly after 4 p.m. when Baptist Hospital ER representatives confirmed what members of a massing crowd outside feared: Memphis’ larger than life celebrity, Elvis Aaron Presley, was dead. The CA announced it this way:
Death Captures Crown of Rock And Roll — Elvis Dies Apparently After Heart Attack

Reporter Lawrence Buser wrote a straight-ahead news story that delivered the essential facts without any breathlessness:

Elvis Presley died Tuesday, apparently after a heart attack, at Graceland Mansion.

The 42-year-old "king of rock and roll" was found unconscious in his night clothes at 2:30 p.m.

Presley was found by his road manager, Joe Esposito, and was taken by ambulance to Baptist Hospital’s emergency room where he was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., police said.

Esposito told authorities he could find no sign that Presley was breathing and could not detect a heartbeat. He began emergency resuscitation efforts and called a Memphis Fire Department ambulance.

Shelby County Medical Examiner Jerry Francisco, who performed an autopsy, said the death was due to “an erratic heartbeat” but added that the exact cause of death may never be determined.

Reporter William Thomas described Presley this way in his front page obituary:

He was born in a two-room house in Tupelo, Miss., on Jan 8, 1935, a nobody with a somebody destiny.

Looking back: Buser still seems to feel the pressure of the moment, with fire-breathing Metro Editor Angus McEachran demanding every detail in time for the next major edition.

I remember Angus isolating me from the newsroom commotion by putting me in his glass office with a typewriter, my notes, and many periodic updates from colleagues. It had the feeling of a pressure cooker as deadlines approached; even more so whenever Angus approached. He was not a patient man. The end result wasn’t great literature, but we got Elvis dead for a fairly important edition of The Commercial Appeal.

Elvis Presley fans wait for news outside Baptist Hospital emergency entrance Aug. 16, 1977. A crowd of about 150 gathered there after news of Presley’s death was made public about 4 p.m. (Robb Mitchell/The Commercial Appeal)