A C Wharton

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A C Wharton, Jr.
Mayor A C Wharton Memphis TN 2012-04-28 003.jpg
Mayor of Memphis
Assumed office
October 26, 2009
Preceded by Myron Lowery (pro tem)
Personal details
Born Lebanon, Tennessee, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ruby Wharton
Alma mater Tennessee State University (BA)
University of Mississippi (J.D.)
Website Government website

A C Wharton, Jr. is a Tennessee Democratic politician who is the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee. Previously, he served as mayor of Shelby County, the first African-American to serve in that office.[1]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Wharton was born and raised in Lebanon, Tennessee. A C Wharton shares his name with his grandfather, father, and eldest son. Despite some misconception, Wharton has stated that his first name is simply the letters A and C and does not stand for anything in particular.[2]

He graduated from Tennessee State University with a degree in Political Science and earned his law degree from the University of Mississippi. He went on to teach at the university for 25 years following graduation. [3]

In 1980, then-Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris appointed him as Chief Shelby County Public Defender, where his concern for the mentally ill in the criminal justice system gave birth to a national model program, known today as the Jericho Initiative.[4] He chaired the county’s Jail Overcrowding Committee, which developed new ways to ease overcrowding without sacrificing public safety.

Shelby County Mayor[edit]

Wharton is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition,[5] a group with the stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets."

Wharton initiated Operation Safe Community[6] and developed a program to connect prisoners with the skills to succeed in life and to support their families. He increased funding for the drug court. He is credited with working to toughen gun laws and seeking passage of laws that make criminals pay into a special program to help victims.

Wharton improved the management and accountability of the County's Head Start program. His reforms attracted the attention of the United States Congress, where he was called to testify before the House Committee on Education, with many of his subsequent recommendations being translated into changes to public policy. In the way of early childhood development, he also was a strong advocate "Books from Birth," a unique early-childhood education program which provides books for over 28,000 children in Memphis and Shelby County every year.[7]

Between 2008 and 2009, Wharton convened and led the community wide effort which led to the drafting of Sustainable Shelby, an environmentally sustainable agenda for the county.[8]

Memphis Mayor[edit]


In June 2009, Wharton announced his intentions to run for mayor of Memphis in a special election to replace Mayor W. W. Herenton, who vacated the office in the middle of his fifth term.[9] The special election was held October 15, 2009. Based on unofficial returns, Wharton won election with 60 percent of the vote in a field of 25 candidates.[10]

Wharton was sworn into office on October 26, 2009.[11] He is the fourth African-American to serve as Mayor of Memphis (previous African-American mayors were J. O. Patterson, Jr., W. W. Herenton, and Myron Lowery) and the second to be elected to that office (of the previous African-American mayors, only Herenton was elected mayor).


In 2010, Wharton pledged to build over fifty miles of bicycle lanes and associated facilities in Memphis during his tenure. [12] Memphis had been named one of America's worst cities for cycling by Bicycling magazine in 2008.[13] The program resulted in the completion of the Memphis Greenline, designation of bike lanes throughout Memphis, and plans for further expansion with the aid of a $15 million federal grant.[14]

Wharton hired the city's first Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator in 2010. He created the city's Office of Talent and Capital in 2010 in an effort to promote employment in the city.[15]

In September of 2013, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report recognized Memphis as a paradigm for government focused on job creation, crime reduction, and economic growth.[16] The Chamber cited development strategies created by Wharton's "Innovation Delivery Team" in praising Memphis.

Wharton has been criticized for awarding contracts to his friends,[17] underfunding Memphis City Schools,[18] underfunding the Memphis Police Department[19] and for cutting services for young people and the elderly,[20] while offering incentive packages to corporate interests.[21]

Wharton publicly disagreed with the 2010 Forbes rating of Memphis as Most Miserable City in America.[22] By 2013, four years into Wharton's tenure as mayor, Memphis had disappeared from the Forbes list entirely.[23]

On June 17, 2014 the Memphis City Council passed Wharton's budget "that includes Mayor A C Wharton’s plan to cut retiree and current employee health benefits". [24] Under Wharton's budget current city employee's and retirees (under the age of 65) (including Police and Fire) will have an health increase premium rate hike of 24%. City Retiree's over the age of 65 now will have to pay 100% of their health insurance premiums.[25] Recent city budget cuts, left the police and fire ranks depleted, and now even more are looking to flee the city. [26]


In 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation filed a joint federal lawsuit against the administration for violating the Clean Water Act and the state Water Quality Control Act.[27] In 2011, city employees filed a class action suit against the administration of Mayor A C Wharton [28] for violating the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Wharton currently lives in the Glenview neighborhood of Memphis with his wife, Ruby, an attorney.[30] The couple has three sons and raised three other boys.[31]


  1. ^ Harold Ford Jr. Reaches For the Stars, Time magazine, December 10, 2002
  2. ^ My 2 Cents: A C Wharton Jr.[dead link]
  3. ^ [1] Template:Memphis government website
  4. ^ Mayor A C Wharton Launches the Jericho Initiative, Shelby County Government press release, March 3, 2009. Archived by archive.org on May 28, 2010.
  5. ^ "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". 
  6. ^ Memphis Fast Forward: Operation Safe Community http://memphisfastforward.com/category/operation-safe-community/[dead link]
  7. ^ "One For the Books," June 30, 2009, http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/jun/30/one-for-the-02/
  8. ^ "Sustainable Shelby: A Future of Choice, Not Chance," http://www.dpdgov.com/(plawzh553mnt5bzljfjhp43w)/portal/portal_content.aspx?ID=36&component=news&dept=dpd&cmid=97
  9. ^ "The campaign has begun," June 26, 2009, http://memphisnewsblog.com/2009/06/the-campaign-has-begun.html
  10. ^ Alex Doniach, A C Wharton wins with 60 percent of vote; turnout less than 25 percent, Memphis Commercial Appeal website, updated October 15, 2009, 11:00 pm
  11. ^ Daniel Connolly, Zack McMillin Wharton sweeps into City Hall with a broom Commercial Appeal . Retrieved October 26, 2009.
  12. ^ http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/blog/2013/05/mayor-wharton-to-highlight.html
  13. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/us/memphis-aims-to-be-a-friendlier-place-for-cyclists.html?_r=0
  14. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/us/memphis-aims-to-be-a-friendlier-place-for-cyclists.html?_r=0
  15. ^ http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=48647
  16. ^ http://www.memphischamber.com/Newsroom/Press-Releases/The-U-S-Chamber-Highlights-Memphis-Tennessees-Ec#.Ulwm1VB6buI
  17. ^ City Spent Thousands More for Contract with Mayor's Friend
  18. ^ "Mayor Wharton offers partial payment to Memphis schools" http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/mar/29/mayor-wharton-offers-partial-payment-memphis-schoo/?print=1
  19. ^ City Council Blames Mayor Wharton for Blue Crush Cuts
  20. ^ "Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's budget proposal shuts out athletics" http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/may/20/budget-proposal-shuts-out-athletics/
  21. ^ "Memphis Mayor Wharton blasts critics of economic development efforts" http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/feb/22/memphis-mayor-wharton-blasts-critics-economic-deve/
  22. ^ "Mayor A C Wharton says it’s time for Memphis to control the message" http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/feb/23/mayor-c-wharton-says-its-time-memphis-control-mess/
  23. ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2013/02/21/detroit-tops-2013-list-of-americas-most-miserable-cities/
  24. ^ http://wreg.com/2014/06/17/memphis-city-council-passes-operating-budget/
  25. ^ http://www.memphisflyer.com/NewsBlog/archives/2014/06/18/memphis-city-council-cuts-employee-benefits-in-budget-vote
  26. ^ http://wreg.com/2014/06/18/officers-say-there-arent-enough-of-them-on-the-streets/
  27. ^ "EPA sues city of Memphis for violations of Clean Water Act" http://www.watertechonline.com/municipal-industrial/article/epa-sues-city-of-memphis-for-violations-of-clean-water-act
  28. ^ "City Charged with Union-Busting Efforts as Federal Suit is Filed" http://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2011/07/12/city-charged-with-union-busting-efforts-as-federal-suit-is-filed&show=comments
  29. ^ "Municipal Unions Sue City Over Budget" http://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2011/jul/11/municipal-unions-sue-city-over-budget/
  30. ^ Mayor A C Wharton's Biography http://www.cityofmemphis.org/framework.aspx?page=22
  31. ^ Alex Doniach Public's image of Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton powerfulCommercial Appeal. Retrieved October 16, 2009.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Myron Lowery
Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee
2009 – present