A C Wharton was elected in 2009 and served through 2015.
The themes that bind together A C Wharton's life - and his public service - are about overcoming hardships, inspired leadership, courage of convictions, and a compelling confidence in a better future. They culminated in his election in 2009 as Mayor of the City of Memphis with a 61 percent mandate for his gospel of "One Memphis" and his bold vision to make Memphis a true city of choice for all people.
His early life began in Lebanon, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, where it was assumed that he was destined to the life of a farm laborer. And yet, through the life-altering encouragement of two student teachers from Tennessee State University and his personal dream for a better life, he was accepted to Tuskegee Institute, where he had initially hoped to pursue a degree in veterinarian medicine.
However, he could not afford to attend college, and at the moment when his ambitions for a college degree seem shattered, his high school principal unexpectedly visited him and presented him with a scholarship to Tennessee State University. At TSU, he excelled in a major that foreshadowed his future - political science - and he graduated with honors in 1962.
A native of Lebanon, TN, former Mayor Wharton attended Tennessee State University on an academic scholarship, graduating with honors in political science in 1962. Six years later, he entered the University of Mississippi Law School, where he was one of the first African-American students to serve on the Moot Court Board and the first African-American to serve on the Judicial Council. He graduated with honors in 1971 and later became the University's first African-American professor of law, a position that he held for 25 years.
Wharton served for two years in the Office of General Counsel of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C. before moving to the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to head the Public Employment Project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. In November, 1973, Wharton chose to accept a job as Executive Director of Memphis Area Legal Services, a non-profit organization that provided legal assistance and counseling to our community's poor. Under his leadership, MALS thrived and was recognized nationally for its innovative programs, including one of the nation's first legal services office for seniors.
In 1980, then Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris appointed Wharton as Chief Shelby County Public Defender, where his concern for the mentally ill in the criminal justice system gave birth to the Jericho Project, another nationally-renowned program. He was also chosen to chair Shelby County's Jail Overcrowding Committee, which developed new ways to ease overcrowding without sacrificing public safety.
In 1982, he wrote and passed one of the first state laws in the U.S. to combat domestic violence, and at a national level, he worked for a special appropriation for one of the nation's first transitional living facilities for juveniles.
Within his first six months as City Mayor, Wharton and his team enacted new standards for government transparency and employee ethics; made urgent changes at the Memphis Animal Shelter and the auto inspection stations; launched the third season of the city's Diversity Development Incubator; established the new Office of Talent and Human Capital to develop, attract, and retain the best and brightest young workers; and laid out a new blueprint for comprehensively restructuring the operations and business model for city government.
His record of leadership is well-known among national organizations dealing with the issues facing cities. He has testified before the U.S. Congress and has spoken at numerous major conferences, including those of the Brookings Institution, CEOs for Cities, and National Association of Counties.
Mayor and Mrs. Wharton have raised six sons.