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What is: The abandoned Alcazar Hotel, Clarksdale, Mississippi

What was: The building is the second of the original hotel and was the center of social culture during the booming business days of the Delta. Advertised as the “most modern hotel in Mississippi” it was considered one of the premier hotels of the South.

Built with four stories and a glass dome on the second floor “which allowed natural light to filter through to the lobby on the first floor, where a restaurant and several other businesses were housed.  The building’s eleven storefront bays were where prominent Clarksdale businesses operated.

The Alcazar Hotel and Coffee Shop were all white restaurant and hotel (which is ironic as you will see later in the story). After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the employees of the Alcazar Hotel and the Alcazar Coffee Shop were instructed to “refuse service to Negroes.” According to the US District Court ruling filed in November 1965, Reverend George W. Trotter III of Memphis, a black man, attempted to obtain a room at the hotel on July 6, 1964, and Mrs. Vera Mae Pigee of Clarksdale, a black woman, attempted to obtain service at the coffee shop; both were refused because of their race.

The next day, the owners closed the hotel and coffee shop to avoid serving black customers. A few weeks later on July 27, the Regency Club was founded as a whites only private club, working in conjunction with Clarksdale King Anderson for use of the hotel, coffee shop, and staff. In December 1965, the court ruled against the discriminatory practices, barring the hotel from operating in cahoots with the club.

WROX was Clarksdale’s first radio station going on the air in June 1944.  WROX broadcast from the Alcazar Hotel for nearly 40 years.  Ike Turner operated the elevator in the hotel as a pre-teen and would go on to be a DJ at the radio station.

Early Wright, an auto mechanic by trade, came to the station in 1945 as the manager of the Four Star Quartet, a gospel group that had a 15-minute Sunday morning program. Management was so impressed by Early that he was hired and became the first black disc jockey in the state of Mississippi, breaking the color line in radio in Mississippi.  Early Wright developed a dual on-air persona as “The Soul Man” when he played blues and R&B records and “Brother Early Wright” when he switched back to gospel. Early was known to have one of the longest running radio shows in America from 1947-1998.  Musicians like Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, Ike & Tina Turner, and B.B. King performed live at WROX and were interviewed by Early Wright

 

Early Wright holding the WROX sign in the Alcazar Hotel. Photo by Panny Flautt Mayfield.

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Early Wright Time over on Vimeo