By Brad Dison
During his lifetime, Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, had more than his share of admirers. People waited for hours outside the gates of Graceland in hopes that they might get a glimpse of and maybe an autograph from Elvis. There were also many people who disliked him for a variety of reasons. It was for reasons such as this that Elvis’s home, Graceland, was protected by a solid stone wall fence with a set of large metal gates.
On the morning of November 22, 1976, a 41-year-old man and his wife drove up to the gates of Elvis’s Graceland and asked the security guard to see Elvis. Naturally, the security guard refused entry and sent the man on his way. Just a few minutes later, at about 9:30 a.m., the man was driving at the corner of Powell and Peterson Lake Road in Collierville, a suburb east of Memphis, when he took the curve too sharply and flipped his car.
Police arrived and found the man and his wife standing beside the overturned car. The man, they noticed, was unsteady on his feet and had slurred speech. They arrested the man and charged him with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and having no driver’s license. At Collierville police headquarters, the man took and passed a breathalyzer test. Collierville Police Chief H.A. Goforth Jr. administered further tests to determine the man’s incoherence. The man posted a $250 bond and was released from jail. That should have been the end of this story.
The man had a lengthy history with police. As far back as 1963, the man was sentenced to thirty days in jail for drunk driving. Earlier in 1976, the man shot a coworker in the Collierville city limits. Police determined the shooting was an accident but charged him with discharging a firearm within city limits. Police released the man when he posted a bond, but he failed to appear at his court date. A little over a month before the man’s visits to the gates of Graceland, he was arrested for shouting obscenities at his neighbors in Collierville. He had various other run-ins with law enforcement officers.
In the very early morning hours of the next day, November 23, 1976, the man went to a bar called The Vapors. The bar owner knew the man well, and for some unknown reason, the bar’s owner loaned the man a small .38 caliber derringer pistol. Just before 3:00 a.m., the man returned to the gates outside Elvis’s Graceland. As the man’s car pulled into the driveway, a different security guard, Robert Loyd, approached. The man pointed the derringer pistol at the security guard as he approached. The shocked security guard refused entry just as the security guard had done on the previous day. The man screamed, cursed, verbally threatened, and waved the derringer pistol around wildly. The security guard calmly returned to the guard shack and called the Memphis Police Department.
Patrolman B.J. Kirkpatrick arrived at the gates of Graceland and found the man sitting in his car. Patrolman Kirkpatrick noticed that the derringer pistol was lying on the man’s left knee. The patrolman took the pistol and inspected it. It was then that he realized the man was not making empty threats. The gun was “cocked and fully loaded.” Another patrolman arrived as backup. The officers noted that the man’s speech was slurred, he reeked of alcohol, and he was unsteady on his feet. At 3:07 a.m., Patrolman Kirkpatrick arrested the would-be killer. On the way to the city jail, the man turned his threats from Elvis and the security guard to the policemen. Three hours later, the man was released after posting a $250 bond. The derringer pistol was kept as evidence.
Millions of people still visit the gates of Graceland each year. After paying an admission fee, they are admitted through the gates. But on those two dates in November, 1976, it was a killer who tried to force his way through the gates. He died last week on October 28, and although he was prevented from entering the gates of Graceland, hopefully he was accepted into the gates of Heaven. The man was not actually a killer, he was The Killer. Jerry Lee Lewis.
1. The Memphis Press-Scimitar, November 23, 1976, p.1.
2. Best Classic Bands Staff, “Nov. 23, 1976: Jerry Lee Lewis Arrested at Graceland,” Best Classic Bands, July 31, 2015, bestclassicbands.com/jerry-lee-lewis-arrested-graceland-11-23-155/.