She was Kathy Campbell, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Lakeshore Junior High School in August 1956 when she and three of her girlfriends heard Elvis would be performing at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville.
'We were the first in line and we got a front-row seat for the concert', Bray said in a recent interview at her Fleming Island home. 'We were so excited'. After the concert, Kathy said a photographer asked her and one of her friends if they wanted to go backstage and meet Elvis. They said yes, of course. 'We went back there and met him', she said. 'He just said hello and we posed for the picture. You can tell from the picture that he was more concerned about being photographed than kissing me. But I didn't wash my cheek for over a week'.
As far as any hubbub surrounding the photograph, which she still has, Kathy said she doesn't remember much. 'I wish I had written it all down, but I didn't', she said, wistfully and apologized for not knowing more of the details. 'I just know that we were thrilled to see him perform and to get to meet him. He was just so good looking, and I loved his music'. Unlike many of today's concerts, cameras were allowed into the Presley concert, which is how Kathy came to have the photograph. 'The photographer who took us backstage saw my camera and took the picture of Elvis kissing me', she said. 'It is hard to remember all the details'.
What Kathy does remember is that she and her friends got to see an uncensored version of a Presley performance. 'Yes, we got to see him move those hips', Kathy said. Elvis had come under attack from religious and civic leaders for 'impairing the morals of minors' with his hip-swiveling antics, newspapers reported at the time. Jacksonville was no different. He was denounced in a sermon titled, 'Hot Rods, Reefers and Rock and Roll', given at Murray Hill Methodist Church and Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding threatened to arrest the singer. Gooding did order Elvis to tone down his act, one night after Kathy and her friends saw him.
'My parents didn't have any problems with me going to see him', Kathy said. 'In fact, I think my mother actually liked Elvis, too. I remember some of my friends coming to our house and watching Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show; we would scream and cry over him'. After her brief moment with Elvis and a bit of notoriety, Kathy put the picture away and didn't share it with many people for a long time. Finally, she made copies of the original photo and gave them to her children. 'It just brought back so many memories for me', said one of two daughters, Carol Blalock, a teacher at Middleburg Elementary School. She and her sister Susan Rooney, also an elementary school teacher at Middleburg, said they remember their father singing Elvis songs to them when they were children. 'It is just so cool to have that photo as a reminder', Carol said. Kathy's husband, former Clay County Sheriff Dalton Bray, said she doesn't like to bring attention to herself. 'She's very shy', he said.
All that ended a couple of weeks ago when Kathy showed the photo to her preacher, Mike Hailey, at High Point Community Church, who had his own Elvis encounter in 1977 when he was the front-desk clerk at the Jacksonville Hilton. The hotel manager asked for a volunteer to pick up Elvis at the airport about 2 a.m. Hailey said he drove right onto the tarmac to get Elvis, his manager, Col. Tom Parker, and Elvis' entourage.
'Three floors were reserved for Elvis' group', Hailey said. 'Even at that late hour, there was a group of fans waiting for him at the hotel as we attempted to sneak him in'.
Hailey did not get an Elvis photo of his own, but displayed to his congregation the one of Elvis kissing Bray. Now, more than just a few people are aware that Elvis kissed Kathy Bray, nee Campbell. While Elvis may have kissed her first, husband Dalton has something greater than that. The two of them will celebrate 50 years of marriage in August - 55 years after that memorable night at the Florida Theatre.Crowds await entrance to see Elvis Presley performs at one of his two concerts at the Florida Theatre on August 10 & 11, 1956.