Legends are rare, but Memphis Native and Hamilton High School alum Adolph Thornton Jr. leaves a legacy that continues to impact millions. Thornton, also known as Young Dolph, was a man of many words, which he expressed through music. Hamilton High School's vision is for families and the community to act as collaborative partners in children's education. Through his music and supportive nature, he developed his own vision that also paved the pathway to independence and empowerment for many in the community. Thornton released his first mixtape, 'Paper Route Campaign,' in 2008, where he successfully introduced his individual style to the world of rap. Two years later, he formally established his label Paper Route Empire, an independent record label, while subsequently releasing his next mixtape, Welcome 2 Dolph World. In 2016, he released his first album 'King of Memphis", and it reached the 49th position on the United States Billboard 200. In 2020, he released his seventh album 'Rich Slave,' which became his highest-charting project. Thornton was philanthropic and empowered the community through motivational speeches and strategic support. Each Thanksgiving, he gave away hundreds of turkeys to Memphians in need. He also donated $25,000 to his alma mater, Hamilton High School.
Geeter High School exposed Dr. Glenda Glover's passion for learning, and now she shapes the future generation as Madam President of Tennessee State University (TSU). At an early age, Dr. Glover discovered a love for math and continued her educational development at TSU, where she majored in mathematics. She pursued the Master of Business Administration at Clark Atlanta University, completed her doctorate in business from George Washington University, and later received a law degree from Georgetown University. Dr. Glover is one of two African American women to hold the Ph.D.-CPA-JD combination in the nation. In 2013, she became TSU's first female president. Since then, the University's academic offerings have increased to 45 bachelor's degrees, 24 master's degrees, and seven doctorate degrees under Dr. Glover's leadership. She is a member of several professional, civic, and non-profit organizations and recipient of numerous awards and honors. In addition, she served as the past President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but Central High School Alumni, Derek Fordjour, creates art that sparks conversation. Fordjour was born in Memphis, TN, to parents of Ghanaian heritage. He received his undergraduate degree at Morehouse College, earned a Master’s Degree in Art Education from Harvard University, and an MFA in painting at Hunter College. Fordjour’s layer paintings focus on cultural rituals and social gatherings, which he compliments with sculptures and elaborate installations. His work belongs in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. His art has been reviewed in The New York Times, Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Hyperallergic. He has also been featured in several publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and Forbes Magazine. He was recently appointed The Alex Katz Chair at Cooper Union and serves as a Core Critic at Yale University School of Art. His art has even caught the eye of collectors like Jay-Z and Beyonce.
In Memphis, the weekend has one more unique meaning, thanks to Westwood High alums Joe Johnson bringing an exclusive music lounge to the city. Johnson had an exceptional love for music, reflected through Westwood High School's music program and his family's church choir. In fact, he credits his high school's band director, Emerson Able, for successfully preparing him in his musical direction. After graduating high school, he received a musical scholarship and attended Tennessee State University. Johnson's saxophone mastery continued to evolve in Nashville, where he worked as a studio session player and played R&B and smooth jazz in some of the United States' most illustrious nightspots. Since then, he has played on over 400 commercial and jingle dates working for major clients like Target, Ford Motor Company, Budwiser Beers, Taco Bell, Coke, and Mattel Toys. Furthermore, he has shared the stage with mega music stars such as Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Sade, Jamie Foxx, Donald Byrd, Cameo, the O'Jays, and many others. Most recently, Johnson completed a cross-country arena tour playing for sold-out audiences nationwide with Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, and Yolanda Adams on the gospel extravaganza "Hopeville." He launched the prominent lounge WKND in Memphis to give back to the city that shaped the man he is today.