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Interview with Vernon Presley (The Commercial Appeal August 20, 1977)

By: James Kingsley
Source: The Commercial Appeal August 20, 1977
August 26, 2018
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After three days of privately grieving the loss of his son, Vernon Presley searched for words to thank the world for its concern. 'It lightened my grief somewhat as I watched the tributes to my son that were shown from people throughout the world', said the 62-year-old, white-haired Presley, 'But as everyone must know, I would rather have my son Elvis'.

Presley appeared tired as he talked in the large den in the rear of Graceland Mansion. He wore sports clothes and tried to relax as he attempted to put the week's events into perspective. It was not easy. 'I am very sorry that all of the people who came to Memphis were not able to view the body, but there was not enough time', he said. 'I was afraid that it would become more dangerous as the night wore on for the safety of the thousands of people that had come to Memphis to pay their tributes. 'I would like to express my sincere and deepest sympathy to the families of the girls in the very unfortunate and regrettable thing that happened at the gate. We want the families to understand'. (Miss Alice Hovatar and Miss Joanne Johnson, both of Monroe, La., were killed by an automobile early Thursday morning while standing in a no-traffic lane in front of Graceland. Tammy Baiter, 17, of St. Clair, Mo., was still in critical condition Friday night at Methodist Hospital from injuries in the wreck.)

Presley also praised law enforcement officers for their efforts. 'The funeral arrangements were all handled beautifully. I would like to thank the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, the Memphis Police Department and other officers for the way they handled all of the traffic problems', he said. And for the hundreds of journalists from all over the world who covered the funeral, Presley said: 'You were most gracious. It is hard for me to put into words my thoughts at this time. But I do want you to know my feelings. 'I would like to take this opportunity to thank each member of the press, including the newspapers, radio, television and magazines, for their consideration to our family and friends during our sorrow after the death of my son, Elvis'.

Presley also touched on several areas in which speculation has arisen since his son's death. 'Elvis did have a will and the attorneys will handle it next week', he said. 'Elvis called me up to his suite at Graceland one night several months ago and asked me if I would have a will made up for him. We discussed it. Then I talked to the attorneys. It was drawn up. He approved it and it was signed and witnessed by three people and notarized'. Presley said Graceland mansion, which was purchased by his son for $100,000 in 1957, would remain in the family. 'I will assume that the rest of my life I will keep it intact', said Presley, who lives at 1266 Dolan. 'My plan is to keep Graceland as long as it is physically or otherwise possible'. Living at Graceland now are Mrs. Delta Mae Bigg, the elder Presley's sister, and Mrs. Minnie Presley, 85, who is Elvis' grandmother. Also living there is Charlie Hodge, who played guitar on stage for Elvis. The mansion also has three maids and two cooks.

Presley said the family may build its own mausoleum if the flow of tourists disrupts the privacy of relatives of other persons entombed there. 'The possibilities exist, but I don't think so now since we were able to get a room in a very nice location', he said. 'If it becomes too congested for the other people, however, we may build our own at Forest Hill (Cemetery Midtown)'. He also said he may move the vault of Mrs. Gladys Presley, Elvis' mother who died in 1958 and who is buried at Forest Hill about a quarter of a mile from the mausoleum that holds Elvis. 'That possibility also exists, but I don't know when', he said. 'I think it might make Elvis happy if he had known'.

Presley recalled his son's courtship of Miss Ginger Alden, the 20-year-old, dark-haired beauty who said she and Elvis had planned to marry either Dec. 25 or Jan. 8, Elvis' birthday. 'I mentioned to my son Elvis one time about the possibilities of remarrying and Elvis told me, 'Only God knows that', Presley said. 'I knew he had gotten engaged, but to my knowledge, no date had been set..'.

Ironically, the couple had discussed wedding arrangements in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Miss Alden said Thursday night. She said the engagement was to be announced at Elvis' Memphis concert Aug. 27.

The elder Presley then discussed his son's final day. He said his sister, Mrs. Biggs, took Elvis some water and the morning newspaper as he relaxed in his room about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. 'He told me he was going to get up that night and then leave at 11:30 p.m. or midnight for the tour', which was to open in Portland, Maine, Wednesday night, Mrs. Biggs said Friday. 'He was happy and walking around talking about the upcoming tour. He was in a jovial and happy mood'. Elvis' father said he and road manager Joe Esposito were in an office behind the mansion discussing the tour that morning. He said Esposito later went into the house. 'Joe called me between 2:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., I think, and told me I should come upstairs because something had happened', Presley said, 'I went upstairs and we started giving Elvis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but I thought it was probably too late'. I looked at Elvis and I realized it was probably a helpless situation but it was so hard to believe it had happened'. A short time later, an ambulance rushed the singer to Baptist Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m.

It was Monday evening, less than 24 hours earlier, that Elvis spoke his final words to his father. 'I told Elvis, 'I think I'll just go with you on this tour', Presley said. 'Then Elvis said, 'Fine. The more the merrier'.

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