Lloyd Binford

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Lloyd Tilghman Binford (1869 – August 27, 1956, Duck Hill, Mississippi[1][2]) was an American insurance executive and film censor who was the head of the Memphis Censor Board for 28 years.[3][4][5]

The son of an infantry colonel, Binford left high school at 16 for a job as a railway postal clerk. After moving to Memphis, he eventually became president of the Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company[6] and a Freemason noted for his views on "Southern womanhood" and white supremacy.[5] He once told Collier's that at his funeral "two rows of seats in the rear" would be "set aside for my Negro friends".[4]

Binford's changes included the removal of whipping and crucifixion sequences from Cecil B. de Mille's The King of Kings and cuts to or bans of numerous films with African-American stars or topics, including Imitation of Life, Sensations of 1945, and Brewster's Millions (1945).[5] In 1945, he attracted national attention when he banned the Jean Renoir film The Southerner, citing his opinion that the Southern characters were portrayed as "common, lowdown, ignorant white trash". The film's producer David Loew retorted that "Binford must have been sniffing too many magnolias."[5] Boxoffice magazine noted in an editorial that Binford's opinion of The Southerner contrasted with that of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which endorsed the film as portraying "'the courage, stout-heartedness and love of our land which is an outstanding characteristic of the south.'"[7]

Among the other films Binford had banned from Memphis was the comedy Curley (1947), which was executive-produced by Hal Roach in the style of his earlier Our Gang shorts. Binford stated in a letter to the distributor, "'[The board] was unable to approve your 'Curley' picture with the little Negroes as the south does not permit Negroes in white schools nor recognize social equality between the races, even in children.'"[8]

Binford also occasionally banned films because of the personal conduct of the stars rather than the content of the movies. In 1950, referring to Ingrid Bergman's affair with director Roberto Rossellini, he announced that Bergman's films were banned from Memphis "'because of her conduct, not because of the pictures'.... 'We haven't even seen "Stromboli" and we don't expect to see it,'" Binford said.[9] The following year, a re-release of Charlie Chaplin's 1931 film City Lights was banned from Memphis. Binford's explanation of the ban stated that although "'[t]here's nothing wrong with the picture itself'", the film could not be shown in the city "'because of Chaplin's character and reputation'".[10]


  1. ^ "Memphis' Film Censor of 28 Years Is Dead". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1956-08-28. p. A8. 
  2. ^ Finger, Michael (May 8, 2008). "Banned in Memphis: The dark days of Lloyd T. Binford, known from coast to coast as the toughest censor in America". Memphis Flyer. 
  3. ^ Obituary Variety, August 29, 1956.
  4. ^ a b "Black and white and banned all over: race, censorship and obscenity in postwar Memphis.". Journal of Social History. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-02. I cry, because I love old niggers," Lloyd Binford told a Collier's reporter in 1950, his eyes welling with tears as he recalled his youthful friendships with the black servants on his family's plantation. Before the aghast reporter could respond, Binford expounded on the extent of his love: at his funeral, "two rows of seats in the rear" would be "set aside for my Negro friends. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Higher Criticism in Memphis". Time (magazine). 1945-08-13. Retrieved 2008-01-02. Lloyd Tilgham Binford, dour, dogmatic chairman of the Memphis Board of Censors, has long prided himself on being able to whiff a movie innuendo or spot a suggestive line even before it is suggested. Since 1928, 76-year-old Mr. Binford has kept the Lower Chickasaw Bluff pure by dooming or doctoring many a movie. 
  6. ^ Bond, Beverly G.; Janann Sherman (2003). Memphis: In Black & White. Arcadia Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 0-7385-2441-7. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  7. ^ Shlyen, Ben (1945-08-11). "Blindsight". Boxoffice. p. 6. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Memphis Bars Negro Children at Play in Film". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1947-09-20. p. 12. 
  9. ^ "Bergman Films Under Ban in Memphis Area". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1950-02-05. p. 12. 
  10. ^ "Calls Chaplin 'Guttersnipe'; Bans Old Film". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1951-01-11. p. 16.