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Charles Franklin Holmes, 76, retired University of Memphis Community Relations Director who advised four of the university’s presidents and two interim presidents over 33 years, died October 20 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was preceded in death by his parents James and Virginia Holmes of Hickory Valley, TN, his beloved wife and soul mate, Nancy Tippitt Holmes, two sisters, Jamie Maupin and Margaret Kinney, a brother Jack Holmes, and son- in-law, Bill Walsh. He is survived by his daughters, Charlotte A. Fletcher of Memphis and Dr. Katrina Walsh of Plano, Texas; grandchildren Tatum (Jeff) Dunn of Cordova, and Kaylee, Hannah and Madison Walsh of Plano, Texas; and great-grandchildren, Joshua and Abigail Edwards of Memphis; and his brother, Joe Holmes of Cullman, AL. After graduating from Memphis State College in 1957, Holmes became a reporter for The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal for five years before becoming Director of Public Information at Memphis State University in 1962. Although his office changed names on several occasions, Mr. Holmes remained at the university as head of public relations until 1995 when he became special assistant and government relations liaison to then-president Dr. V. Lane Rawlins. Holmes fully retired in 2000. Mr. Holmes was well-known throughout West and Middle Tennessee for his public relations connections and his invaluable assistance in many local crisis situations including working with then-sheriff William N. Morris following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Subsequently, he was asked by Sheriff Morris and Criminal Court Judge W. Preston Battle to prepare a plan for seating the many local, national and international media representatives at the trial of James Earl Ray, King’s killer. After months of preparation, Ray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, where he died. Following the abbreviated trial, author Gerold Frank interviewed Holmes at great length before publishing his definitive book on the case called “An American Death.” “Charlie had a tremendous impact both at the university and in his relationships with the leadership of the City of Memphis,” Morris noted. “He was a trusted friend as well as a strong bridge-builder for our community.” Holmes was the voice of The University of Memphis for over three decades, serving as editor of “The Tiger Rag” student newspaper, during his senior year. He was greatly involved in Memphis State College’s name change to Memphis State University in 1957 and then to The University of Memphis in 1994. Mr. Holmes co-authored, with the late William Sorrels, a book about the history of Memphis State football. He served as past president of the Memphis Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and received the 1987 Outstanding Journalism Award by the university’s Journalism Alumni Association and the 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Memphis Chapter of PRSA. He was honored by the Tennessee College Public Relations Association in 2004 when an award in Holmes’ name was established to be given annually to a member of outstanding accomplishment. Holmes also served with the U.S. Army in Germany at the time Elvis Presley was there and was assigned to deal with both the national and international media on their inquiries concerning the military life of Presley. While overseas, he appeared as a jeep driver in the Elvis’ movie “G.I Blues. The family will receive friends Monday, October 24, 2011 from 5 - 8 p.m. at Memphis Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens, Poplar Avenue, with funeral services Tuesday at 10 a.m., also at the funeral home. Burial will follow in Bethany Cemetery in Hickory Valley, Tennessee. Online condolences may be offered at memphisfuneralhome. net Memphis Funeral Home And Memorial Gardens 5599 Poplar Ave. (901)725-0100
Published in The Commercial Appeal on Oct. 22, 2011
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