Feb 21 2013

Ryder up to challenge as counsel for RNC

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Feb. 21, 2013

John Ryder of Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC was recently appointed general counsel of the Republican National Committee.

The appointment is subject to membership approval at the committee’s spring meeting in April.

As general counsel, a volunteer position, Ryder will advise the chairman, Ryan Reince Priebus, and supervise the full-time legal staff, which includes a chief counsel, deputy counsel and an assistant. The committee’s redistricting department also reports through the office of chief counsel and has its own lawyers on staff.

Following the past presidential election, the chairman of the RNC started the Growth and Opportunity Project. Ryder explained it as “a very systematic review of various aspects of the party’s efforts and image and messaging.”

As part of the project, there are eight task forces reviewing different elements, including two that Ryder will be a part of: presidential primaries and campaign finance laws.

Involved with Republican politics for nearly four decades, Ryder is more than qualified for the position of general counsel.

“I’ve done redistricting work since the late ’70s and then I’ve been involved in various election law matters and lectured on election law issues both for the bar association and for the Republican National Lawyers Association since the late ’80s, so I’ve got a history of involvement,” Ryder said.

He began his work with the national committee in 1996 and served two four-year terms, was off for four years, then served again beginning in 2008; he was the director of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in Memphis in 2006 … (read more)

Feb 11 2013

Lawrence’s background a fit for work at EDGE

Feature profile for The Memphis Daily News

Feb. 11, 2013

Emphasis: Economic Development

It might be said that John Lawrence has a background made to order for looking at the big picture – one of real estate, urban planning, marketing and organization management. Through the course of various career moves, he’s developed the tools necessary for the use in his position as manager of strategic economic development planning for Memphis and Shelby County’s Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).

But he comes from a family of entrepreneurs as well, his parents were the first TCBY franchisees outside of Arkansas, and his mother and friends began their own decorative dish manufacturing business. Lawrence grew up seeing economic forces work in real time.

EDGE was created when Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell began looking at how economic development was being handled in the community, and decided there needed to be a coordinated effort among several entities operating on their own – the Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board, the Port Commission, Foreign Trade Zone and Defense Depot Redevelopment Agency. These were combined under the umbrella of EDGE to be a unified economic development agency for Memphis and Shelby County.

When the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization conducting independent research and providing innovative recommendations, approached the city and county to work on a metropolitan business planning project as part of a national effort, EDGE was the logical place to coordinate such a thing and Lawrence was brought on to manage the process.

“We really are in the early stages of this, so for the last month or two the mayors have been forming their steering committee to oversee this project,” Lawrence said … (read more)

Jan 29 2013

20<30 (2013)

Annual “20 under 30″ issue highlighting 20-somethings making great strides in the city for The Memphis Flyer

Jan. 24, 2013

These young people have graduated from their teens with a sense of responsibility beyond their years, and it is driving them to do good, to leave Memphis a better place. Within their ranks, there are advanced college degrees and long hours spent learning and perfecting a craft. The members of this group can dribble a ball, carry a tune, cook a meal, tell a joke, take a picture, book a show, raise money, raise awareness, and raise us all up if we put ourselves in their capable, young hands.

Each is an ambassador for our city. They are giving their best to make themselves and their community a better place to live and to visit.

News of violence and scandal can make the future seem bleak, but we can rest easier knowing that these 20 men and women are a part of that future. Keep an eye on them and watch what they can do when they put their minds and hearts to it … (read more)

Flyer cover 2013

Flyer cover 2013

Oct 29 2012

Parental Party fends off young challengers

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 25, 2012

Parental Party candidate wins debate

It is the season of debates, when one side goes toe-to-toe with the other, each certain they know best, they have all of the answers, they can fix any problem, right any wrong, cure any ill.

It’s maddening, isn’t it? The way our kids want to belabor each and every point even when there is no point to be made, not understanding that there is no rebuttal to my order to clean their rooms or remove a bicycle from the driveway.

Just as the president and challenger will stand in front of a national audience to blame someone, anyone, other than themselves for the problems today, so will my kids deny they spilled that milk or lost the television remote. They will rush to tattle on a sibling for the scattered game of Monopoly left on the floor, and argue over whether 82 is too hot for a jacket, until I lock them all out of the house.

What my kids fail to grasp is that this house is not a democracy, there will be no votes on policy, no majority will set a course of hot dogs for supper and cake just before that. This is a one-party system, and that is the Parental Party.

If this population of children wants to hold their own convention to garner support for a contender to the seat of president, the seat at the head of the dinner table, then they are welcome to do so. There will, however, be no debate over who vacuums up all of that confetti and bundles up the dropped balloons.

My writing this is an exercise in diplomacy (some might say futility), but the truth is that I’m slipping in the most current polls. There is a 6-year-old candidate who wants to debate me on the issue of bedtime, meatloaf vs. corn dogs for dinner, choosing what’s on TV and the chance of any homework being done.

And I’ve lost more than my share of showdowns.

To make the situation worse, my moderator has locked herself in our room with a DVR full of “The Voice” and a bowl full of ice cream, leaving me to segue on my own from matters of economics (“Can I get a new iPod?”) to foreign policy (“My friend Susie has one.”).

Any election year can be a lesson in civics and an opportunity to grow and change, just as every other year we have the opportunity to grow and learn as parents, though there is some debate about that. No one is stepping up to challenge us for this job; no one wants an invitation to this parental party.

This debate season, when you tire of the incessant whining, finger-pointing, blame and posturing, then turn off the television, lose the remote, and put the politicians in timeout. Focus more on your immediate constituency, that binder full of children who, at this moment, are holding a caucus, preparing a convention, and planning a coup to unseat you at your very own table.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Oct 29 2012

Harris’ legal career leans on desire to help community

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 25, 2012

It seems like with so many people, Lee Harris’ eventual career interest was sparked by television.

“All I knew was what I saw on TV, and lawyers seemed very, very powerful and able to get things done,” he said.

Of course there was more to it than an infatuation with prime time drama, but Harris has known since middle school that he wanted to be a lawyer and the reality of the profession, he said, has lived up to his expectations.

The Whitehaven native and graduate of Overton High School traveled far from home for his degrees – B.A. in international studies with a minor in economics from Morehouse College, and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School in 2003 – and then returned home.

“There was no question for me,” he says of his choosing to live and work in his hometown. “Never at any time did even a specter of doubt enter my mind, I always knew that I’d return to Memphis. … I knew this is where I wanted to be to practice law, to raise a family and to try to make a change.” … (read more)

Oct 18 2012

Diverse career brings Spickler back to Public Defender’s Office

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 18, 2012

Upon graduating from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2000, Josh Spickler took a fortuitous first step into his legal career with the Shelby County’s Office of Public Defender under A C Wharton Jr.

It was an experience that ignited a passion for the courtroom and public service in the young lawyer.

“I didn’t have grand dreams to be some Atticus Finch kind of guy, but I did, during law school, gravitate toward the courtroom in trial clinics and trial advocacy classes,” Spickler said.

He clerked for the public defender’s office where he said he “just fell in love with the courtroom, with the clients, with the challenge of trying a case against another lawyer and doing it from the hip sometimes and with surprises around every corner.”

But there are experiences to be had in any young man’s life and after a few years he left the public defender to start his own firm, one in which he was able to continue the same sort of work but “was able to get more trial experience a little quicker,” he said.

A law firm, being a small business, demands attentions outside of the courtroom with overhead and marketing, lean months and fat, and once the first of Spickler’s two sons with his wife, Ginger, came along, it was time for a change.

“I kind of panicked because it’s one thing to starve myself … but it was sort of a wake-up call that this month to month and crazy revenue fluctuations is a big risk, it was just a grind,” he said … (read more)

Sep 10 2012

City with burgeoning movie industry has history of censorship in the past

“Hidden Memphis” feature for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 9, 2012

“Brazen.” “Rowdy … unlawful … raw.” “Salacious and risqué.”

All adjectives that might be used to sell a movie to today’s viewing audiences. You can just imagine such adjectives in big, bold letters plastered beneath the title or across the screen of a coming attraction. From 1928 until 1956, however, these were scathing words used by Lloyd Tilgham Binford as he edited films or banned them outright from being shown in Memphis.

Recently retired from the company he founded, Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Co., Binford wasn’t looking for work in 1928 when he was appointed chairman of the Memphis Board of Censors. He awoke one morning to learn from the newspaper that he’d received the appointment from newly elected Mayor Watkins Overton. Binford accepted the position on a temporary basis for only 90 days “as a favor to the mayor,” his obituary reads.

It was a title he would hold for 28 years, retiring at age 88 in 1956.

Born in Duck Hill, Miss., where he would eventually have a high school named after him, Binford had a simple, religious upbringing that would one day help to inform his decisions when it came to film censorship. He

quit school at 16 and went to work as a railway mail clerk for the Illinois Central Railroad. As a clerk, his train was once held up by the famous train bandit Rube Burrow; as a film censor, he would outlaw films depicting train robberies and the like, including “The Outlaw,” the serial “Jesse James Rides Again” and “Destry Rides Again.” Though opposed to violence of any sort in films, he did allow that “if we stopped every movie with a murder in it, there wouldn’t be any left.”

He went to work for various insurance companies, eventually starting his own in 1917. That company was moved over the course of a weekend from Atlanta to Memphis, where Binford would build a new headquarters, an iconic monument on the Downtown skyline, the Columbian Mutual Tower on the northern edge of Court Square. It was one of the first skyscrapers in Memphis; Binford ran his insurance and censorship empires from a top-floor office. The building would be sold years later and renamed the Lincoln American Tower, but the visages of Binford’s children can still be found carved into the building’s facade.

A millionaire when he retired from insurance, he accepted the chairman position for $200 a month. As a civil servant, he upheld the standards of the state, the city and the Hays Code, a set of guidelines used to govern studio film releases from 1930 to 1968, and named for Will Hays, a Presbyterian elder enlisted by Hollywood to improve the image of its studios. The Hays Code, also known as the Motion Picture Production Code, was used until 1968 when the Motion Picture Association of America adopted the rating code in use today.

As chairman of the Memphis Censor Board, Binford enjoyed free rein to edit films — known as having been “Binfordized” by Hollywood — or ban them outright. A moral gyroscope in the Crump political machine, he passed judgment on pictures that were “immoral or inimical to public safety, health, morals or welfare.” … (read more)

Learn more on Binford and my story here.

Jun 21 2012

A grand division

Feature story for Rhodes Magazine

Summer 2012

Last year the joint department of Economics and Business split in two, becoming separate departments: One is now called Economics, the other, Commerce and Business—in part because of the steady growth of each. The sheer size of the faculty and student body was such that, managerially, one department was becoming unwieldy.


Any liberal arts institution prides itself on a wellrounded education. It’s an education that is made up of literature, history, science, religious studies and the humanities. At Rhodes, the study of economics is increasingly gaining favor among students as a major of choice.

“Rhodes offers this classical liberal arts education and, on top of it, you add courses maybe in economics, accounting, finance and business, which makes our students very, very attractive to the market,” says Marshall Gramm, department chair of Economics.

“It provides a different way of thinking, a different way of analyzing people’s decisions and business’s decisions, and I really enjoy it,” says Alex Petraglia ’12 of his major in Economics … (read more)

Jun 21 2012

A new program: Political Economy

Feature story for Rhodes Magazine

Summer 2012

The past academic year saw a new interdisciplinary program in the Rhodes catalogue with the introduction of Political Economy, a major that explores important ideas that are the foundations of economic and political systems throughout the world. It is, basically, the study of economics without the math. It brings a more philosophical approach to how and why markets work—or don’t work.

Political Economy is the perfect storm of five different departments coming together: Economics, Political Science, History, Philosophy and International Studies. Others, such as Psychology and Greek and Roman Studies, contribute courses as well. According to the catalogue, “The program and the associated major will study the many ways that politics, principles and economics interact in the formation of policy choices and actual policies. It will further look at the impact of political and economic choices on the prosperity and well-being of those who organize their society under various systems.”

The program is supported by program founders Thomas Garrott, chairman and CEO emeritus of National Commerce Bancorporation; Fred Smith, president and CEO of FedEx Corporation; and founder of AutoZone, J.R. (Pitt) Hyde III … (read more)

Feb 10 2012

The Memphis Center

Feature story for Rhodes Magazine.

Winter 2012

 … how does the college work within the community? How do the philosophy and theory from textbooks, lectures and the Internet seep from the campus into the surrounding neighborhoods, the arms of the city, the region of the Delta? Consider that almost three-quarters of the Rhodes student body come from places other than Tennessee and the question becomes, “How do we encourage our students to become part of the Memphis community at large and engage with our culture, people and causes?”

There are a number of ways students garner knowledge from real-world experiences and activities, and several Rhodes institutes and groups are leading the charge in ensuring that the college contributes to the greater community … (read more)