On Our Best Behavior

President Howard Taft was a special guest when the YMCA building was dedicated Oct. 27, 1909. Taft's presence brought governors from 40 states including Tennessee Gov. Malcolm Patterson. The president arrived aboard the steamer "Oleander," docked on the banks of the Mississippi River, and was paraded through the downtown section to the new facility. For the president's visit to Memphis, city fathers paved Madison and even extended the street about a half-block east of the new building so the president wouldn't see that the street didn't keep on going. (J.C. Coovert/The Commercial Appeal)

October 28, 1909

In what was clearly a momentous occasion — four full pages of coverage in the newspaper — President William Howard Taft visited Memphis, officially opening the YMCA with a gold key.

Taft arrived aboard the steamer Oleander and was greeted by huge crowds on the riverfront. For the three hours of his visit, Memphis was the nation’s political epicenter: Taft was accompanied by the Secretary of War, Secretary of Labor, Postmaster General, 32 governors, 20 U.S. Senators and 177 Congressmen.

The exhaustive coverage included these two morsels:

  • Memphis behaved. Only two people were arrested.
  • Madison Avenue was freshly paved for the presidential visit and, in a bit of civic sleight of hand, extended one block beyond the new Y so Taft would not see the street abruptly terminated.