At "home" in his office at Nike, Willie Gregory reflected on the journey from 1968 to MLK50. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

When your roots extend deep into one of the nation’s poorest ZIP codes (38126) and you’ve stepped into the role of Greater Memphis Chamber chairman, your view of Memphis takes on magnified importance throughout the city.

Such is the case for Willie Gregory, Nike’s director of Global Impact. Now set to lead the Greater Memphis Chamber Board of Directors, Gregory was announced as the successor to FedEx’s Richard Smith at a luncheon at The Peabody on Thursday.

Chamber chairmans serve two years on a voluntary basis.

In tracing Gregory’s roots, you have to make a stop at the south side of St. Paul St. in 38126. It’s a point of reference for measuring this statement that he made on stage at The Peabody’s Grand Ballroom on Thursday.

“… I can tell you right now that I’m invested in Memphis. I was born here, I was raised here, and, guess what, I’m still here. When it came time to grow my career, it was here in Memphis that I wanted to be a part of, and like each of you in this room, I am invested in the future of our city.”

I interviewed Gregory and his childhood friend, Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones Jr., in 2018 and ahead of the formal MLK50 celebration. Upon hearing Gregory’s Greater Memphis Chamber luncheon remarks as he set a tone for his term of service, I recalled this segment of that earlier interview:


From the TSD Archives:

Fred Jones & Willie Gregory: ‘Brothers’ from 38126