T. H. Hayes & Sons Funeral Home

     ... Memphis' oldest Black Business


At the beginning of the 20th century many black Memphians began establishing their own businesses and acquiring real estate.  They usually entered business as tailors, undertakers, grocers, and blacksmiths.  Of those who became established in Memphis, the oldest African American business was T. H. Hayes and Sons Funeral Home, run by Thomas Henry Hayes, his wife,  their two sons, Thomas Jr. and Taylor.



Click on the small thumbnails to see larger images.


Thomas Hayes's family moved to Tennessee in 1880 and settled on the Ames Plantation.  He worked a variety of jobs while attending the Memphis Howe Institute.  During this period, he opened four grocery stores, all of which failed before the success of the fifth one.   In 1902 Thomas entered the undertaking business at 245 Poplar Avenue.   His range of services were affordable to the working class as well as to the elite.  He had the most modern equipment and there were 12 horses in his own stables, with 10 rigs, 5 hearses, 1 ambulance, and landau carriages.   

Ames Plantation  

    The Howe Institute

247 Poplar Av

1904 Ad

1910 Ad

1916 Ad



In 1918, Hayes purchased a large residence at 680 S. Lauderdale Street and remodeled it for his funeral business on the first floor with the family living quarters above.  His outstanding services continued.  And T. H. Hayes extended credit terms to those who couldn't pay all at once.  Daughter-in-law Frances Lasiter had married into the Hayes family when she was 23.  She had no funeral-home experience, but quickly learned the trade and ran the business for almost 70 years.   When the funeral home closed it had  became Memphis oldest African American business.


680 S. Lauderdale


Hayes Family  Postcard Thomas and wife Button Hayes Hearse

Thomas Hayes was active in the National Negro Business League and was co-founder of Union Protective Live Insurance Co.  His son Thomas Jr. owned the Birmingham Black Barons, of which Willie Mays was a member.  He also was Vice President of the Negro American Baseball League.  Another son, Taylor, was president of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association and President of the Cotton Maker's Jubilee. Taylor's wife Frances, earned her funeral director's license and became one of the first licensed black women in the profession.  The entire family was active in social and civic clubs.


Thomas Jr.


... Black Barons

with Joe Louis

Embalming Fluid

1932 Ad

Thomas Jr.

Thomas' Obit

Thomas Sr. died in 1982.  His daughter-in-law, Frances died in 2010 at the age of 103.  She had kept the Funeral Home going after the death of her husband Taylor in 1968.  In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Funeral Home, she was honored by Grace Magazine, the Commercial Appeal and the Tri-State Defender.   The old funeral home building was demolished in 2011.  It had been owned for several years by the First Baptist Church, Lauderdale.  A spokesman for the church said the cost to renovate the old building was prohibitive for the small congregation.  

Frances at 103         


Taylor's Obit 1968 Frances' Obit Demolition 2011 Demolition 2011 Records to 1912

Sadly, like so many Historical Markers in Memphis, the T. H. Hayes and Sons Funeral Home marker is now just another of the many bronze markers posted on an empty lot.

"Founded in 1902 by Thomas H. Hayes, Sr., T.H. Hayes and Sons Funeral Home is considered Memphis's oldest Black business. Originally located at 242 Poplar, the business moved to 680 Lauderdale in 1918. Hayes was active in other business affairs including the National Negro Business League founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900. In 1933, he was cofounder of Union Protective Life Insurance Co. A son, Thomas, Jr., owned the Birmingham Black Barons, of which baseball great Willie Mays was a member."


Historical Marker

<  During the demolition of the funeral home, many of the interior details of the grand old building were salvaged.  The Memphis Pink Palace Museum obtained this beautiful vintage stained glass window that had been hidden behind an added wall.  It will be installed at the museum.

Hayes Stained Glass




R. I. P.







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