Status: Renovation is underway.
Address: 480 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue (formerly part of Linden Avenue) at Danny Thomas Boulevard, Memphis
Architectural Style: Egyptian Revival
Original Function/Purpose: Commerce
History: Dr. Joseph E. Walker founded the Universal Life Insurance Company on Beale Street in 1923, a firm dedicated to “improving the economic condition of people of color.” Dr. Walker and his son A. Maceo Walker later also established the Tri-State Bank of Memphis, still in business. The Universal Life building was built in 1949 by the African-American architectural firm of McKissack & McKissack of Nashville. The quality of its design shows on both south and west facades of the building, as dictated by its location on the corner of two prominent streets. The company erected at the same time what has become a local landmark, a free-standing metal post-mounted neon sign and clock at the intersection. The new owner, the firm of Self + Tucker Architects, intends to restore the building “to its former glory,” occupying it but leaving much of the building available for leasable office space. The building has also been selected as “a stop on the Historic Commerce Loop section of a planned Memphis Heritage Trail” guiding visitors to important civil rights sites in the city. Renovation designers Juan Self and Jimmie Tucker cut the ribbon at the re-opened building on April 3, 2018. The next day Tucker was notified that he was the 2018 recipient of the Francis Gassner Award, a local award honoring contributions to the profession and community.
City Council District: 6
Super District: 8
County Commission District: 8