Remembering George Riley at MLK50

During the final years of his life, attorney and civil rights advocate George Riley was sustained by the idea of producing a festival to invigorate the cultural arts organizations in his beloved hometown of Memphis. In particular, he hoped to celebrate the writing of James Agee, author of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, his renowned depiction of impoverished southern sharecroppers during the Great Depression, and the music of composer Samuel Barber, who set Agee’s works to music. Sadly, George was not able to see this project through, but you can help bring his vision to fruition.

George’s family has established the Remembering George Riley at MLK50 Fund to create an enduring legacy in his honor that will support Memphis institutions dedicated to his passion—the arts—and his life’s work: the causes of justice and civil rights.

To that end, George’s program ideas have been expanded and merged with events planned for spring 2018 in Memphis to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The following organizations have pledged to include recognition of George in their MLK50 programs, and some will highlight the works of Agee and Barber, which intersect so powerfully with the MLK50 themes:

  • Indie Memphis, which connects and inspires indie filmmakers and film-lovers
  • Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
  • University of Memphis Department of English
  • University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
  • National Civil Rights Museum
    (Pictured right: I Am A Man: Memphis Sanitation Strike 1968 gallery, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN)
  • PRIZM Ensemble, which engages youth through classical music
  • Clayborn Temple, a historically significant site for the civil rights movement in Memphis

Learn more about these organizations and their MLK50 events here.

Your tax-deductible contribution to the Remembering George Riley at MLK50 Fund will allow these organizations to produce their events and, in some cases, offer them to the community at no charge. It will also help build lasting programs in George's name that promote social justice and the advancement of the arts in Memphis. 

Read George Riley's obituary and learn more about his commitment to social justice.

This fund was created by George's brother and sister-in-law, John and Maryellen Riley. As advisors to the fund, they make final recommendations for grants based on the criteria above.