Raleigh, Memphis, Tennessee

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Raleigh is a suburban community in northcentral Memphis, Tennessee named for a formerly incorporated town that used to be at its center. Today the boundaries of Raleigh are designated by the 38128 ZIP Code. Raleigh is bordered on the west by the community of Frayser (the boundary being the north-south Illinois Central Railroad tracks, which formed the Memphis city limits until 1975), on the east by the incorporated suburb of Bartlett, on the south by the Wolf River and the northern loop of I-240, and on the north by the Memphis city limits. The former town of Raleigh was the first county seat of Shelby County, Tennessee.


Situated along a high bluff on the Wolf River, Raleigh is one of the highest points in the Memphis area. The old town's center, which was located around the intersection of today's James Road/Stage Road and Old Austin Peay Highway, had a commanding view of the river. Mary Winslow Chapman, in her 1977 memoir I Remember Raleigh, provided these vivid descriptions of the Wolf River in its natural state (before channelization):

To form any picture of [the river's environs] we must forget what we now see and imagine the Wolf as it was then, a clear, spring-fed stream slipping silently along through the endless forest, where the unbroken shade shielded it from the fierce Southern sunshine and kept it flowing fresh and cool all summer long....
The water was fresh and sweet, flowing out of the uncontaminated woods, but gradually this condition changed. As more and more land upstream was cultivated, more silt was washed into the river. After each rain it took longer for the stream to clear, and finally, with the establishment of the Penal Farm [today’s Shelby Farms] with all its disagreeable effluvia, swimming became impossible....
Gone now forever from this spot are the cane brake and the horses; the tall timber and the mysterious river, where hard by, on Austin Peay Bridge auto traffic streams triumphant, night and day in one unceasing roar, all oblivious of the life and history buried down below.[1]


Formerly an incorporated city, Raleigh was the county seat of Shelby County from 1824 to 1866, when the county courts were moved to Memphis, which had outstripped Raleigh in growth. In 1912, the town surrendered its charter and returned to unincorporated status.[2]

The town was named by Joseph Graham, the first circuit clerk of the county, who was from the Raleigh, North Carolina area.[3] The stone courthouse was situated between James and Fayette roads; a warehouse was later built on the site at 4216 Fayette Road. After the town lost its status as county seat in 1866, the courthouse was dismantled and the stone was used to construct the courthouse in nearby Bartlett, Tennessee, which had incorporated that same year.[4]

Raleigh Cemetery, on Old Raleigh-Lagrange Road, is the final resting place of many of the area's early settlers, such as Coleman, Burrow, Isaac Rawlings, the second mayor of Memphis; relatives of Isaac Shelby, the county's namesake. This cemetery was founded in the 1840s.[5]


With the exception of a large Nike distribution center on New Frayser-Raleigh Road, Raleigh's business community is almost exclusively retail. The two main commercial corridors are Covington Pike and Austin Peay Highway. The southern section of Covington Pike comprises Memphis's largest collection of automobile dealerships and related businesses. The area around Stage Road offers fast food and casual restaurants, shopping centers, and major retailers such as Home Depot. Austin Peay Highway likewise is crowded with fast food and casual restaurants, shopping centers, grocery stores, and Raleigh Springs Mall which was the community's commercial center from its opening in 1971 into the 1990s. It has struggled to retain tenants since then due to competition from newer complexes and other changes.[6] Austin Peay and Covington Pike meet at a major intersection that includes Methodist North Healthcare Hospital on one corner and a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other businesses on the other.


Raleigh's public elementary schools include Scenic Hills, Coleman, Spring Hill, Egypt-Central, Keystone, Brownsville Road, and the STAR Academy public charter school. Raleigh's middle school includes Memphis Academy of Health Sciences. Its two high schools, both of which include middle schools, are Raleigh-Egypt High School, which has one of the best basketball programs in the state, and Craigmont High School. This has the only International Studies Program in Memphis, and one of the better basketball programs in the state as well.


  1. ^ M. Winslow Chapman, I Remember Raleigh, 1977, Riverside Press, Memphis. Excerpts are displayed here with permission of the author's estate.
  2. ^ Tennessee historical marker at James Road and Old Austin Peay.
  3. ^ Tennessee historical marker at James Road and Old Austin Peay.
  4. ^ http://cityofbartlett.org/index.aspx?nid=55
  5. ^ Tennessee historical marker on Old Raleigh-Lagrange Road.
  6. ^ "Curtain falls at Malco Raleigh Springs Cinema, Commercial Appeal, 7 December 2011

Coordinates: 35°12′28″N 89°54′28″W / 35.2077°N 89.9079°W / 35.2077; -89.9079