Hugh "Hu" Brinkley
... Memphis Philanthropist and The Lyceum Theatre



Hugh Lawson White Brinkley preferred to be called "Hu".  With either name, it's doubtful that many Memphians today know who he is or anything about him.  Hu was born in 1842 in the Nashville home of his grandfather, John Overton, one of the original founders of Memphis.   His parents named him after Hugh Lawson White, a great-uncle who was a senator and one-time presidential candidate.  With this background he had social connections throughout the South and the wealth to support them. 

He achieved his first recognition by completing the job of linking the railroad between Memphis and Little Rock.  After that success he completed the beltline to connect all of the railroads coming into Memphis.


The accomplishment of the railroad hub gave Hu the funds to build the Lyceum Theatre, which was a great source of pride for Memphis in the late 1800s.  He then served in the state legislature, as well as a Memphis fire and police commissioner and Vice Mayor.  Afterwards he led the Greater Memphis campaign that resulted in the 1899 annexation of most of Memphis's eastern suburbs, which made the city 4 times larger.


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