With the River City (TN) Chapter of The Links, Inc. now celebrating its 30th anniversary, these (in alphabetical order) are its living charter members: Lorraine Bell, Shirley Cobbins, Rose Flenorl, Gwendolyn Jones, the Rev. Inetta F. Rogers, and Melanie Stafford. (Courtesy photo)

One of Memphis’ premiere service organizations for African-American women — River City (TN) Chapter of The Links, Inc. — is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Last Sunday’s luncheon in the event space of Methodist South Hospital was only a foretaste of a culminating affair scheduled for Sunday, April 23.

The Feb. 4 gathering was a flurry of group photos, founders and charter member visual displays, audio recordings of memorable speech excerpts, and lots of visiting and catching up with Link Sisters. 

Seated on the front row of the chapter photo of River City Links are (l-r): Dr. Inetta F. Rogers, Vanecia Belser Kimbrow, Esq., Lashell Vaughn, Michelle Fowlkes, Marilyn Evans, Teleesa Mason, Lesley Rawlings and Tammy Cobb. (Courtesy photo)

“A Legacy of Leadership” panel featured a discussion focused on past presidents: Dr. Elma H. Mardis, Charlene M. Turner, Norma F. Griffin, Martha P. Beard, Beverly C. Robertson, Carolyn F. Bishop, Dr. Charlotte M. Freeman, Dr. Inetta F. Rogers, Carla Stotts-Hills, Gale Jones Carson, Ailene Oliver Booker, and Vanecia Belser Kimbrow, Esq. 

“My presidency was one of creating hope and a sense of fellowship through a very difficult period, the pandemic,” said current Links Chapter President Michelle Fowlkes. “I focused on helping members who may have felt isolated. It was a time of implementing creative and innovative ways of caring for people and helping them succeed.”

Fowlkes said her determination was to make sure people were connected to the resources and services that were needed, “whether it was employment, family needs, and social services.”

Michelle Fowlkes (Photo: rivercitylinks.org)

Fowlkes will pass the gavel this year. For her, history and remembering are very important to an organization such as the Links.

“We have not gotten to this place by ourselves,” said Fowlkes. “We are standing on someone else’s shoulders. Our legacy is one of service and caring. We facilitate a voting rights initiative in several schools. We want young people to understand that voting is a call to action. We look to a larger service component as we move forward.”

Fowlkes took office on May 15, 2021 for the traditional two-year term. 

As members considered the organization’s motto: “Linked in Friendship, Connected in Service,” thoughts of a beloved co-founder, Emma Jean Hubbard Stotts, the mood turned emotional as Fowlkes praised the highly-esteemed Stotts.

Links member and past president, Carla Stotts-Hills, recounted the story of the River City Chapter. It was her mother’s story. 

“It all started when I joined the Links Chapter in Nashville,” said Stotts-Hills. “I got the information to my mother, and she founded the River City Links, along with her sister, Dr. Elma Mardis. Both were educators.”

Founder Stotts died on Feb. 3, the day before the anniversary gathering.

Co-founders of the River City (TN) Chapter of The Links, Inc.: Emma Jean Hubbard Stotts (left) and Dr. Elma H. Mardis. (Courtesy photos)

Other prominent members reflected on their time in River City Links, Inc.

Gale Jones Carson counts among her proudest moments serving as the organization’s president in 2015.

A former president (elected in 2015) of the River City (TN) Chapter of The Links, Inc., Gale Jones Carson became a member in 2000. (Courtesy photo)

“As president, I had a vision of connecting with young ladies to expose them to accomplished and phenomenal women in a wide range of professions,” said Carson. “I wanted them to see mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins who looked like them, and who broke glass ceilings everywhere. We also adopted schools in Jamaica, and I have thoroughly enjoyed mission work.”

Dr. Inetta Rogers was a charter member.

“I am overwhelmed with excitement and thankful and honored to have traveled this journey for the 30 years and witnessed the expansion of River City,” said Rogers. “We have grown in the Memphis community, Africa,  and Jamaica in leadership, friendship, and service…”

National and regional leaders will be on hand for the 30th Anniversary Gala, said Rogers.