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Not All Boarding For Elvis International Airport

By Jody CallahanJun 22, 2003
A few hours south of here, it's the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

Across the Atlantic, England has the Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

In California, Orange County has the John Wayne Airport. And Oklahoma City has the Will Rogers World Airport.

But in the home of Elvis, it's plain old Memphis International Airport.

Some might argue, though, that a better name would be Elvis Presley Memphis International Airport.

"That's how I think of it anyway," said Rima Snyder, a visitor from Petaluma, Calif., waiting for her flight at the Memphis International Airport. "You see Elvis stuff in all the gift stores. I think that would be fine with me."

It's certainly arguable that the King of Rock and Rollhad more effect on popular culture than John Wayne, Louis Armstrong, Will Rogers or even John Lennon (after all, it was Lennon who said "Before Elvis, there was nothing.").

And there's precedence: the Memphis terminal is named after entertainer and St. Jude founder Danny Thomas.

"I think that's the way it should be all along," said Terrell Suddarth, a 41-year-old Denver resident waiting on his flight. "That's what Memphis is known for, Elvis and the blues. And you can't really call it the 'Blues Airport.' "

Not without scaring a few travelers, anyway.

A name change is possible. Memphis Metropolitan Airport was renamed Memphis International Airport in 1969.

Technically, the process is simple, said Larry Cox, president of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. His board would have to approve the change.

But that doesn't mean it will happen. Cox makes no secret of his dislike for the idea.

"I don't think any airport should be anything other than the name of the community it serves," Cox said. "I just don't think there's going to be any serious chance of it."

Even Kevin Kane, head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, was equivocal.

"I don't know if it would ever fly," Kane said. "If I sound like I'm waffling, it's because I think: Who's going to carry that torch to make it happen?"

So far, the city where the King was crowned has two official institutions bearing his name: Elvis Presley Boulevard and the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

Elvis Presley Enterprises president Jack Soden wouldn't mind one more.

"If the airport were named after Elvis Presley, that would be a great honor," Soden said. "And it would certainly make millions of fans around the world happy."

Renaming the airport would require one more change.

All airports have a three-letter designation, which travelers see on their ticket or luggage. Here, it's MEM.

If it became the Elvis Presley Memphis International Airport, the new designation would have to be . . .

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