Joseph Hyde and Faith Morris

Recorded March 4, 2020 Archived March 4, 2020 36:12 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddb002565


Pitt Hyde (77) talks to his colleague Faith Morris (64) discuss the work Pitt has contributed to the community of Memphis, his involvement the Civil Rights Museum board, and his work as an entrepreneur.

Subject Log / Time Code

PH shares of his growing up in Memphis, describes family, and starting a business: AutoZone; shares about a health report that shifted life focus; shares relationship to philanthropy.
PH shares what he's most proud of; shares the start of the project to complete Shelby Farms park and its impact on the city.
PH shares how his relationship to the museum began; shares community's initial feelings about the Lorraine Hotel; shares when established plans to have a museum were presented to him; shares early organizational structure of the museum.
PH shares purpose of the museum; what it can mean to the community; talks about the freedom award.
FM shares thoughts on MLK 50; shares thoughts on Memphis.


  • Joseph Hyde
  • Faith Morris

Recording Location

National Civil Rights Museum

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:05 Hello. Hyde age is 77. It's the March.

00:18 On March 4th. That's that's a quick start at March for today's location is the national Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

00:29 The name of the interviewer States and my relationship to the partners. We work together on everything at the Civil Rights Museum.

00:41 A my name is Faith Morris. I am 64 today's date is March 4th 2020.

00:48 Location of the national Civil Rights Museum. My interview partner is Pitt Hyde and my relationship to my partner is colleague at the national Civil Rights Museum. He is the head of our board and his involved with the Museum from the beginning.

01:12 So let's start with who you are then hide where you from. I'm a native memphian has really 3rd Generation growing up in this city, and you know, why?

01:31 Grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and grew up in the food business Malone and Hyde and which later I headed up for number years before my founded AutoZone, which was you know, what really concentrated on from the late 70s phone still going on today. So I lied on my business career starting AutoZone and forcefully we enjoyed great success of that. That was a I love to see, you know, the development of the kind of culture and the growth and expansion for all daughter's on her. So it was great.

02:26 And so with your history and business coming in and taking over the family business and then you know with AutoZone with all of what's happening. What was the journey to your next move?

02:42 It was interesting that was running AutoZone and I got a call from my urologist telling me that I had prostate cancer and I was 53 years old and course. I was a great shock cuz I thought of myself being in great health and so that you know that really led me down a different path and the sense that you know after you know a fortunately I was in early-stage cancer and you know, I was able and I had a prostatectomy and it all worked out fine, but it made me reflect on you know, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and it reminds you of how tenuous life can be so few years after that. I decided to retire from running the company and focus all my time.

03:42 On philanthropy and family and friends. And so that's that's what I did and of course looking back on all of it. I'd say it's fortuitous because you know, I felt like it was very rewarding and also, you know something I learned from all my years in business, you know, I spent you know, like like 80% of my time doing all the you know, turning the wheels and tightening the screws and dealing with all the stuff from Personnel to you name it just a day-to-day operations. You spend about 20% of your time on what really made a difference and so I finally figured out well if I can structure the rest of my life where I'm spending 80% of my time on the things that really make a difference and I found it philanthropy was a good good place to accomplish the

04:42 And also for the first time in my life, I could schedule my own day my own week. So I found it to be quite rewarding I and you know the whole time I was running both Malone and Hyde and then AutoZone, we always were big supporters of the community involved in philanthropy. But retired for the business giving me the opportunity to really not just support good organizations and and write checks, but you actually get down in the in the trenches and really work to make significant change such as you know, we spent the last twenty-five years. My wife and I are on trying to reform K through 12 education here in Memphis in the state of Tennessee. You can bury involved in education right next to your name is education Equity if any places

05:43 It is just really criminals have especially poor kids assigned to a neighborhood school that has been failing for 40 years, which unfortunately was what was the case in the Memphis City schools and really throughout the public schools and all the urban centers in America. And so also is a great believer that one of the hardest things to do is to give anybody anything and have them be better for it and sold the answer to that is how do you empower the individual to solve their own problems into us the most effective way to do that is through quality education from kids from day one starting K through 12. And if you do that all of a sudden even a kid from the poorest family, it's on a totally different life projection. And so we worked at it for 25 years and fortunately we've been over time we will make it.

06:43 Progress in today Memphis and Tennessee are two of the fastest are are there fat it's in fastest improving state in the country as far as education results for Andrew K through 12. So that was most rewarding and you know more than those classrooms and seeing these kids really getting a quality education. There's nothing better than that.

07:08 So all this is through the Hyde Family Foundation funding comes from the foundation. But you know, when you try to do, you know change public policy in particular. The money is a small end of the stick The Sweat Equity that makes a difference. You got to get to know every bureaucrat every politician and work and work and work cuz this section trench interest protecting the status quo. It's very hard to do, but when you are able to move it The Leverage is tremendous cuz you you know you got going at all like in the Memphis City Schools a billion three annual budget, but the productivity of that capital in the people Capital was very low and if you can change that over time, you can have tremendous leverage which proportionately whoop we've been able to do but you know, I mean, there's so many projects that we've been, you know been involved.

08:07 With which we feel like it made a difference and it made a difference in our lives as well. Like the national Civil Rights Museum. I was involved in that from you know, the day, you know, the original planning for the museum and have been on this board and chairman of his executive committee since its Inception. And of course I original objective was to take a tragic site if it turned it into something positive for the city and for the nation and at the same time to recognize the heroes and heroines of the movement that made the difference of all of us so and in overtime, I think you know, we've been able to make it really accomplish that and it's been a great unifier for our city.

08:57 And I think it's been a great Institution for the nation.

09:04 Did all that come from and we're going to talk more about the museum in a minute.

09:10 I'm from Memphis. I was born and raised here and my parents made a huge impact on me to know education was really critical. They were both in on the public school system in my mother was down there a career educator. Dad said he didn't make enough money and education and he went on to insurance and became an executive there.

09:32 But they were they were very clear about having a goals that I needed to it'll try to be successful in the kind of

09:43 Of work that I needed to do in and where I needed to spend my time and you come from a very strong family the things that that you have been involved in and have made you know part of your life's work. You know, where did that come from?

10:02 You know, I was fortunate in that both my grandfather and my father will my mother the whole family they were great Believers and giving back to Once community. And so I grew up with a sense of you no obligation and responsibility to try to improve the lot of our fellow citizens here in Memphis. So and I consider that a blessing cuz it's it's been very rewarding and it's important work. So yeah, I just thought it was the right thing to do in the natural thing to do.

10:40 What do you feel that you're most proud of at this point? What is it that that has really made your life feel like you are moving and have moved in the right direction.

10:53 You know, it is sort of a bifurcated situation in that, you know, my business career was a huge part of my life for so many years and of course they're you know, the founding of AutoZone, you know, what episode of a high point or and and it's fall on success. But then in the second half of my life, you know, the things I'm most proud of us major things. We were able to accomplish in the full of Tropic circle like we've been talking about and so yeah, I mean, you know, there's a whole series of them we mentioned to and course Shelby Farms park has been a delightful thing. You know, it's all right. It was really refreshing what shall we are inspired? Because we are accustomed to you know, like when you when you do these public-private Partnerships, it's always controversy and there's always opposition like School Reform and all

11:53 And so the park was so much fun because everybody love that idea of a new park, you know, and Mason of it is amazing that you know are ejected. There was we were fortunate that because of the long history out there the penal Farm first and all that here. We had 4,500 Acres sitting in the middle of Memphis and urban center largest urban park in America, but have been totally neglected. And so we thought he was an opportunity to really do something transformative and you know, they're the great thing about it. It's turned out so great and everybody loves it and if braisted and the usage has gone through the roof and it's just you know, I got a smile on my face every time I go out there and then, you know when being able to connected by bike and and and walking path to the whole city, it's just been that's been

12:53 Such a fun and rewarding project and I think it's had a significant impact on the city and the sense of the city's, you know, being a great place with great amenities for Citizens. One of the things about Shelby Farms Park that I love so much and my my grandbabies come and that's one of the places that they always try to go cuz I can be free. Ron and carry on and not worry about anybody saying anything about them, you know being too rough for being fat running too fast is that I don't know they would people think about Memphis that they think enough about nature in the natural aspects of the city and that we've pushed so much of the walking in the running in the cycling and the and it all comes together in Shelby Farms park it all is a culmination of all the good things that we want folks to think about with what outdoors. And other things spells me, you know.

13:53 Is being a native Miffy and I'm pissed are they think of diversity is black white person laugh dance like the UN and it's just terrific.

14:08 You are I'm trying to think of what is going on in this city that has the most impact that you either didn't start or a partner in or barbarism. I mean you guys have it covered and in being involved in some of the most important projects organizations, you know those that that build schools and young people. I mean, you've you've made a very significant footprint in the city

14:42 You know that I consider, you know, one of the great fortunes of having been successful in business is being a position to really help change our city on a scale that can really make a difference. I mean, I got to think that with that think that's a real privilege and you know, what we try to do is identify those things that will make a material difference and will help attract the knowledge workers in the people of the future to our city and it's strange, you know, when you think of philanthropy you would never think about the Grizzlies NBA and I think that's the next thing to talk about it.

15:30 When I decided to that lead the effort to try to get a franchise for Memphis, I hadn't even been to an NBA game. I bet you know, I was a big college basketball fan and Course Memphis State at the time, you know, what's up with it had a great team that but the main reason I was attracted to it as I thought it would be a great unifier for a city and also that it would raise the profile profile on my city in the country and you were right and it really I mean there yet. It's something that's super warning cuz you go to that thing and some most diverse crowd you'll see anywhere from the rafters to the floor and everybody everybody's having a great time and it is just, you know, great Plus for the city. So you don't we look at it. It's not just what you would typically think of is Charity charitable things of philanthropy. It's what this that much mosaic.

16:30 It makes for great cities, you know, and so that that's a you know, that's a good example of that it is it it does seem like you have been very deliberate in determining what would be great for this city. That's why there isn't really any we just one bucket that you have spent your time with that your family has not supported or that you're through your business is all your foundation that they're several buckets that kind of add to this full circle of what this city needs.

17:06 If that goes back to when I said we went from passive philanthropy to active and then we decided you know, all right, you know what it would listen to identify those things that really would make a difference for the city and it most of those cases, you know, we were initiating the Project's it wasn't that we were supporting someone that have been working on something for the benefit of the city for years. And so we spent a lot of time trying to analyze and study what we think thought would make the difference in what would be unique to Memphis so is very intentional

17:48 And you know some of them really worked and some of them didn't but fortunately the vast majority of them turned out well cuz we were we were focused on all right, let's think about what could really differentiate City and so, you know, what's what she need. Well largest urban park in America is a unique opportunity, you know, and it was sitting there neglected. So that's that was you know, one way identified and of course the education reform, I mean, you know,

18:21 In all cities and that's probably the most important thing you can do and I was always really concerned over the years when I was running AutoZone that we'd have so many young people that would come in that it just graduated from high school and couldn't fill out the job application, you know to me that was just criminal so that really haunted me and you know, I feel like in the course that's taken the longest amount of time and it's it's a project that never ends cuz you know, we've made huge progress Tennessee we've got from 46 to 30, but we're not happy with 30 by any means so it's a it's an ongoing process, but at least we're moving in the right direction.

19:11 So let's talk about this a little bit about your family. And Barbara hide is very involved. She's clear your partner in so much of what you to a little bit about her and your kids will Barbara, you know, she's definitely, you know, my partner and all of this and that she leaves on much of it and she is Jesus the president of the foundation and while I spend probably half of my time on the philanthropy she spends all of her time on it and you know, she's a very outgoing and engaging person and very smart and really wants to make a difference for the city just like I do so, you know, and it's unusual, you know that a couple can spend so much time together on projects as well as on the homefront, but we really

20:07 You know enjoy doing both and she's extremely good at it and dedicated and she spends all our time and cuz we have a dedicated staff that works on it all the time too. But all of us are roll up your search shirtsleeve and jump in their young.

20:25 That's certainly what I get in and the museum is certainly benefited from just how you do business and how you engage tell us a little bit about how you did get started with the museum.

20:41 Originally

20:44 How I got started was the Army Bailey and aw Willis came to see me about you know their plans. They had, you know, they've been part of the group that had bought the Lorraine Motel auctioned off on the courthouse steps cuz it was in bankruptcy. And of course there were all the you know, a lot of people in the city wanted to bulldoze the place because they saw it as a track it tragic site that they wanted to remove from that their history and you know, they came to see me about you know, that idea of turning it into a museum.

21:27 Christian me made all the sense in the world. And so that's how I originally got involved in. This is just you know, when they were starting to the work on putting the museum together and trying to raise the money and so forth to get it launched and so from that day forward, you know, I was on the board involved and you know, we were the major funders of the museum as well as we raised probably the first 10 years or so. We raised the majority of the private money for the museum and you know it just that I always felt from the the first time we talked about it that it was something that really needed to be done. And it was totally appropriate this was you know, truly not just a tragic site for the historic site and one that you know, we need

22:27 To use for the benefit of the citizens of Memphis and the country.

22:35 So when you think about 1991 when the museum was officially opened then what it was able to do in those early years and then think through you know from then till now, you know what your perceptions would which was your impression of the Journey of the pneumonia.

22:57 Well, you know it is it was a long hard journey freshly on the front end. I mean today is much more of a pleasure cuz it's so recognized and we have so many visitors and we're such great financial shape, you know, and they're in the early days. It was it was very up-and-down and there were a lot of difference of opinions of what the role of the museum should be in there was a lot of back-and-forth it board meetings today as it was it was it was challenging but again all along I knew that this was a mission that was important and it no matter how rocky it might get it times that we had to stay the course then and then build this institution into what it's become today. And you know, I mean we had our rough times are there were a couple of years where I pick

23:57 Most of the payroll is a matter of fact, but you know today, you know, where most of the freedom award when I got here, you know, it's clear that the first after he's always so involved in writing. So everything is Peaches in the description and not but I'm today. I'm I'm delighted that. You know, we have such a great team and you guys can you know carry the ball on your own very effectively, which is great. But we we just saw the pinch headed. Do you know whenever we were needed weed show up to help us get where we needed to be.

24:44 So now with us being and we talked about it being a power of place, you know to position the Museum from not only being a historic institution, which is absolutely critical on the place where history happen Droid but to also be able to make folks understand the magic that happens, you know on this campus the significance of what happens on the camp and write starting as an assassination site for dr. King, but I guess being able to come by and some of of how it started 11:10 for how was started as a place where people could come and and really understand what's in the movement and talk about their own experiences. And we even bring people in from all over the world actually so that that this community and you know, most of who come to go through the museum are actually outside this country.

25:43 And certainly at least 330 miles from Memphis, Tennessee. Sortland More than 70% of them are coming from a long way to the end sometime here. But to be able to have folks come on a regular basis throughout programming, you know, so they can exchange with each other, you know, what happening in this movement and bring the parallels from every exhibit that we have in the museum that has a contemporary parallels now for almost everything that we talked about their whole range of purposes. I mean

26:22 From a historical perspective. Obviously, I think quickly for young people that don't really recognize what their forefathers had to endure and what they had to be no struggle with to finally get us to the point. We are now and yes, we have our problems today. But I remember Ben Hooks and Maxine used to always tell these young people what yeah, we got problems today, but you ought to be thankful for the progress that we have made, you know, and I think the other big role that we play as reminder that ordinary people can do extraordinary things have their have the courage and conviction that they want to make a difference and of course

27:12 The holtby no idea of the freedom Awards was to recognize those people that are championing the cause of freedom and individual rights here and round the world today and in in point out and recognized as people that you know a lot again, it's a light needs to be done and fortunately there a lot of really good great Champions out there working on trying to better the plight of man all over the world. So yeah, I think it it has a real purpose on many fronts.

27:55 With the freedom award and it has been around since the museum opened almost it's been around since well, at least we started it about.

28:05 I guess a year or two after we got going and back. We were the first sponsors of the freezer. And and of course the whole concept was just what we got got through talking about and course. It's been a great success and some of it, you know, some of the most amazing moments I've ever had it been we used to Ben Hooks and Billy Kyles and I used to take the recipients on a tour of the museum. And of course being with me quiz Billy Kyles, you know, but for the audience didn't know that he was standing next to King when King was assassinated and of course, he dedicated his life to tell him the story of is the witness, basically and

29:04 And you thought it was involved in that you didn't mention that the thing and that's what that's a very interesting story. And so we would take these leaders through the museum and of course with them, they knew everybody's pictures on the wall in the air events. All of it came to life and I never forget when we were taking Nelson Mandela prison museum, and of course the tour ends up at King's room and we take them out on the balcony where King stood in this we walked out there.

29:41 Nelson Mandela he raises his hands and says we must pause this is truly a holy place. I can feel the presence of dr. King and I mean, I mean those got a moment. She never forget, you know, so it's very special.

30:01 Is it that you would love to see as part of our future the Museum's future and actually did the future of the city to but start with the museum. What is it that you would love to see?

30:17 I think the rolling Museum lot of the things we should do that we're doing now we should continue I think.

30:29 We should hopefully we will take more of a role as a convener to help solve current problems and opportunities. We don't solve them but by bringing the various parties together and help them work through a solution like and then the way Martin Luther King approach problems. This is not about we're not adversaries. We're here for the betterment of all manners what you're really here for and so I thought I could see us and hopefully see us playing a bigger role in that respect you no wonder things with MLK 50 in the museum is always busy as you know and our Partnerships Run Deep and you know such good relationships with Scholars and clergy and teachers and the young people we got so many young Advocates that are involved in certain

31:29 Corporate leaders Civic leaders, very involved with legislators were a political but we absolutely know about policy in policy-making and those that are doing it one of the things that happened with MLK 50 that I think brought it kind of all together is how much of a partnership we had with so many different entities and they were all over the country all over the world creating their own way of where do we go from here and a number must still active many of them got started during and because of MLK 50 and I think that's that's one of the proudest moments that we have.

32:16 That was a result of MLK 50. You know MLK 50 was all-consuming. We were absolutely exhausted by the time April 4th 2018 came around and because it was such a big push and so many people were involved in it at impacted so many we continued it through the end of the year because it really really wanted to to stay engaged but it's it is a proud moment for the museum and for us it was so close to it that many of those initiatives are still happening now and they're looking for, you know, the next wave of how they can continue that work. So that's that that's a good thing. Very good thing that happened with it. No doubt. What about what about Memphis?

33:08 I believe Memphis is really.

33:11 Got great momentum going today. I mean we've made huge progress a lot of people at work hard to

33:20 Get the city moving in the right direction both economically socially and otherwise and you know, you know, I'm feeling proud of the progress of than made and again, you know, we got a lot of work in front of us, but at least you know, we've got good momentum. And the thing I like is you know, when you take surveys today the people that are the most enthusiastic about Memphis on for my memphians is the younger generation, which is really that's your future and horse wild all citizens have attitudes and and outlooks for the city have gone up tremendously the most enthusiastic people about the city and it's where it's going and it's Outlook.

34:13 Is the younger generation so I think that's the best endorsement of the work that all of us have been doing to try to improve our city and every respect. I do think that Memphis, you know, being a native men peeing and then going away for 25 years and then coming back for the museum. It's interesting to see you know, the difference is even when while I was gone. And when I came back that it does feel like there is something very different going on in the city. It feels like there is more of an agreement to make this the city that we wanted to be and there's a 901 something across every void you could imagine and I love it. I love it.

34:58 To see the work that's happening downtown to see the focus on the communities and I can tell you that I never remember there being trying to be half as much of an equal Focus across the communities. It was always East Memphis a downtown and everything in between was whatever right? So it does feel good. It feels like that. We have decided to make me a priority where you are a great example that you have that perspective of having grown up here. And then and of course that 25 years you were gone just when so many of the building blocks were so all of it. It's going to come together at this time the last several years, you know, what's come together and we got a new level of momentum this exciting for everyone and your involvement in so much of it really does shall so I'm going to personally thank you for awhile. Listen, this is Barbara and I like I was saying earlier we feel like it's a real privilege to be in a position.

35:58 Try to help our city in any way we can.

36:03 I think that's it. I think we've covered it all. Okay. Well, thank you. Thank you so much enjoyed it.