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Today Tomorrow and Forever - In Loving Memory Of Elvis Presley

The Death Of Elvis

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Keeping Elvis Alive

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This is the full and true story!

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' I feel so alone sometimes. The night is quiet for me. I'd love to be able to sleep. I am gald that everyone is gone now. I'll probably not rest. I have no need for all this. Help me lord' - A note written by Elvis late 1976 early 1977.

Elvis Aaron Presley died on Tuesday 16th August 1977. He was 42 years old.

Elvis woke at his usual time about 4pm, on Monday 15 August. He spent the evening watching TV, playing with Lisa Marie and bickering with his fiancée Ginger Alden. He then went off to see his dentist, Lester Hoffman, around 11pm. Elvis got home from the dentist at about 12.30am. As he drove his Stutz Blackhawk through the Graceland, he waved at fans. Also Robert Call from Indiana took the last picture of Elvis alive (see the above photo)

Around 2.15 Elvis called Dr Nick to tell him one of his teeth is hurting and he needed some Dilaudid, so Dr Nick prescribed 6 tablets and Elvis asked Ricky Stanley to pick them up at Baptist Memorial all night pharmacy. Once Elvis had taken the pills, he called Billy Smith up and asked if him and his wife wanted to play Racquetball. Once Billy arrived, it had been raining all day long and Billy told Elvis he wanted the rain to stop. ' Ain't no problem, I'll take care of it' Elvis said, as he placed his hands out and the rain stopped. He turned to the others and with a cheeky grin he said ' If you have a little faith, you can stop anything'. They played for a small while and then headed into the next room so Elvis could play some songs. The last song he ever sung was 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain'. Elvis was then given the first packet of 3 prescription drugs or attacks, that Dr.Nick would leave with Elvis's nurse Tish Henley. Each packet consisted of varying amounts of Seconal, Placidyl, Valmid, Tuinal, Demerol and an assortment of other depressants and placebos. They were made and given to Elvis so he could get hours of sleep at a time.

On his way back to his room, Elvis found Lisa Marie playing. He sent her to bed, followed her in and he kissed her goodnight. That was the last time Lisa Marie saw her Daddy alive.

Elvis was still awake a couple of hours later when Ricky bought him his second attack, but when he called down for the third, no one could find Ricky, which upset Elvis. Ricky was on duty till noon. Tish had also gone to work, so Elvis had his Aunt Delta to call her at Dr. Nick's office and after a long talk, Tish give Delta the third packet, made up with 2 Valmids and a Placdyl Placebo. When Delta went into Elvis's bedroom, he did tell her she was getting up around 7pm. Not long afterwards, he told Ginger that he was going into the bathroom to read. She reminded him not to fall asleep on the toilet and his last words were ' Ok, I won't'.

Ginger woke up at 1.30pm, rolled over, felt Elvis wasn't in bed, and then fell back to sleep for a few minutes. Once she was awake, she called her mother who asked how Elvis was, Ginger had no idea. She then got dressed and put on her make-up, she then walked over to Elvis's bathroom door, knocked softly and called out Elvis's name. She got no answer and then she pushed open the door and discovered Elvis lying on the floor, his gold pajama's bottoms around the bottom of his feet, his face buried in a pool of vomit on the thick shag carpet. In shock, she called downstairs and spoke to someone on duty, that person was Al Strada. She thought Elvis had fallen over and hit his head, but he really needed help. And quick.

Al was bending over Elvis when Joe Esposito came running upstairs and into the bathroom. Together the two man managed to turn Elvis's body over and Joe tried to breathe some life into his long time friend. It seemed for a moment like time was suspended, but then everything started to happen all at once. Vernon came into the room and his face was a mask of fear as he cried out ' Oh, God, son please don't go, please don't die!'. Joe worked so hard on Elvis but there was little doubt in his mind or anyone else, Elvis was gone. Elvis's face was swollen and purplish, the tongue was discolored and sticking out of his mouth, the eyeballs were blood red. Suddenly Lisa Marie arrived in the midst of it all. ' What's wrong with my Daddy?' She yelled, as Ginger closed the first bathroom door. ' Something is wrong with my Daddy and I'm going to find out!' Little Lisa had shouted as she ran for the second bathroom door, only to find that locked.

People were crying and wailing when two fireman EMT arrived with an ambulance from Engine House No.29 in Whitehaven, just minutes from Graceland. The ambulance attendants witnessed what they later said looked and sounded like a carnage. In the bathroom stood a dozen people, screaming and crying for someone to help Elvis - There had to be something that could help him? The two ambulance man looked at the almost unrecognizable body, they both knew they couldn't help him. They were told by Al Strada, who was upset and crying, that he thinks Elvis had overdosed. They nodded at him. There was no vital signs and there seemed little doubt of an good outcome. Joe and Charlie Hodge helped the ambulance crew put Elvis onto a stretcher and carried him downstairs and into the ambulance. Vernon, still crying, tried to get into the van but was held back. He cried out to his only child ' I'll be there soon'. Before the ambulance left Graceland, Dr. Nick crashed into the grates and jumped into the back. He started working on Elvis and was yelling ' Breathe, Elvis, come on, Breathe for me'. Dr. Nick was working so hard on Elvis's body and the ambulance men said he had a look on his face like he couldn't believe that Elvis Presley could die.

They arrived at the Baptist Memorial Hospital at 2.55pm, 22 minutes after the initial call. Trauma room No.1 had been prepared, and a team of doctors and resuscitation experts were standing by, but there was little to be done, and they finally stopped by mutual consent.

It was 3.30pm.

Then Dr. Nick walked into Trauma room No.2 were Joe, Charlie and other Memphis Mafia boys stood and waited. Dr Nick walked in and said ' It's all over, he's gone'. Everyone started crying and Charlie Hodge started to run from the room, but Joe kept him back. They needed to remain at the hospital, they had to be composed, soon they needed to tell the world the sad and shocking news. First Joe called Col. Tom, at first he was shocked but then it was back to business. After that call, Joe called Priscilla. When she heard the news, she dropped the phone. She was shocked but needed to know how Lisa was doing. Joe promised her Lisa was safe but she needed to come home to Memphis.

Now Dr. Nick was taken back to Graceland. He had to tell Vernon the news. He was worried that this shock could kill Vernon, who had already had a heart attack. He asked Vernon's doctor to come with him to be on the safe side. When he arrived back at Graceland, he walked into the room where Lisa was crying with Vernon. When Vernon saw the bag of Elvis's personal effects in his hands, he froze and then cried out 'Oh no,no,no. He's gone!' Dr. Nick walked over to Vernon, bent down and said ' I'm so sorry'. Soon Vernon's wails could be heard through the house. 'What am I going to do? Everything is gone'. Now Lisa Marie was running around the house and crying ' My Daddy's is gone'. Ginger, still in shock and crying, pulled Lisa into a empty room until Priscilla arrived.

Now it was time to tell the world the sad news.

Joe, Charlie and Maurice Elliott, an hospital administrator, stood in a small room with the world's press watching and waiting for news. Joe tried to speak, nothing came out. He was too upset and Charlie couldn't say a word. So it came down to Elliott.

The time was 4.00pm on August 16th 1977.

When Joe and Charlie arrived back at Graceland, fans were standing outside and crying. Inside, Vernon was still crying in deep pain. Vernon was crying ' My baby's is dead. They've taken him, he's gone. My baby is dead'. When Joe and Charlie arrived, so did the medical investigators called Warlick. Sam Thompson took the upstairs and unlocked Elvis's bedroom door, and they went into the study. Scattered on couches forming a complete perimeter of the room was an assortment of teddy bears. They were facing the huge desk with had a placard reading ELVIS PRESLEY, THE BOSS. The walls were covered in leather or Naugahyde, the room blended a childish air with the beginning with the largest animal and ended with the empty syringe, which was on the desk. Then Warlick walked past the desk and out of the office-den and into the bedroom. On the far wall he spotted two or three TV sets perched on a deep bookcase and staring out at an angle towards the biggest king size bed in the world. On top of the bookcase, Warlick found another empty syringe, just like the one he found in the study.

Warlick immediately ordered the death scene to be secured, but he was aware of the futility of the gesture even before entering the bathroom. He saw the deep red carpet, a yellowish throw rug lying in front of the black toilet, and once again, another TV set placed in view of the commode. Two telephones and what looked like an intercom were mounted next to the toilet paper dispenser. There was also comfortable arm chairs around the bathroom. The circular shower was about 7 feet in diameter. A cushy vinyl chair rested in the middle of the shower and to the right of the doorway was a 12 foot long light marble counter with a built in purple sink. A mirror rimmed with over sized light bulbs ran along the wall at counter length. Stepping to the counter, Warlick inspected what looked like a black doctors bag with a big flap folding down to a latch in front. Inside was was a complement of tiny black plastic drawers. All of which were empty.

So was the medical cabinets and not was there any evidence of even the most common household remedies in the bathroom. For Warlick, who had been doing this job for 4 years, this was the first time he ever discovered a total absence of medications, prescriptions and non prescriptions in a home. The interview he was given were sanitized. The only thing had appeared to be missing aside from the empty syringes, was the book Elvis was reading when he died. The book was the study of sex and psychic energy that correlated sexual positions with astrological signs. Warlick found a stain on the bathroom carpeting, too. That seemed to indicate where Elvis had thrown up after being stricken, apparently while seated on or near the toilet. It looked like to Warlick that Elvis had stumbled or crawled several feet before he died.

By the time Warlick had got back to the hospital, just before 7pm, the autopsy was about to start. Although he had no formal role in the proceedings, Dr Nick's presence as an observer underscored the fact that Elvis's death was from unknown circumstances, and possibly even unnatural cause, would almost be examined as a private, not a public matter, despite continuing agitation from the attorney general's office to move Elvis's body to the City's hospital across the street. It if the body had been moved, the coroner would operate under official state. Instead armed with the consent form obtained from Vernon, then nine Baptist conducted the examination in full knowledge that the world was watching but the results would be released to Elvis's father along. They were worried that people wanted the know the truth. No mistakes could get out.

Shelby County Medical examiner Jerry Francisco and Dr Nick held an press conference at 8pm, where the results of the autopsy were read out, even thought the autopsy was still going on.

Elvis Presley died from Cardiac Arrhythmia due to a undetermined heartbeat.

Yet the autopsy went on for another few hours. Specimens were collected and carefully preserved, the internal organs were examined and the heart was found to he enlarged, a significant amount of coronary atherosclerosis was observed, the liver showed considerable damage, and the large intestine was clogged with fecal matter, indicating a painful and long standing bowel condition. The bowel condition alone would have strongly suggested to the doctors what by now they had every reason to suspect from Elvis's hospital history, the observed liver damage, and abundant anecdotal evidence. The drug use was heavily implicated in this anticipated death of a middle aged man, with no known history of heart disease, who had been mobile and functional within 8 hours of his death. It was certainly possible that he had been taken while straining at a stool. They couldn't even rule out the possibility of anaphylactic shock brought on by the Codeine pills he had gotten off the dentist to which he was known to have a mild allergy which was long standing.

The pathologists, however, were satisfied to wait for the lab results, which they were confident would over-rule Dr Francisco's precipitate, and somewhat meaningless announcement, as indeed they eventually did. There was little disagreement in fact between the two principal laboratory reports and analyses filed two months later, with each stating a strong belief that the primary cause of the death was poly-pharmacy and the Bio Science Laboratories report initially filed under the patient name of Ethel Moore, indicating the detection of 14 drugs in Elvis's system, 10 in significant quantity. Codeine appeared at 10 times the therapeutic level, Methaqualone (Quaalude) in an arguably toxic taken in and of themselves, the combined effect of the central nervous system depressants and the Codeine had been given heavy consideration.

Dr Francisco and the medical examiner's office would stick to their original diagnosis, and the debate over Elvis's death still raging on over 27 years. There has been lawsuits, legislative actions, medical disbarment and reinstatement, and attempts at blame, denial and reconsideration - There are so many numerous stories to mention.

And yet all one has to do is look at Elvis's life, the accelerating dependence on medications available to him in almost unimaginable quantities, the willing enlistment of doctors who seemed never to give a thought to the dangers or likely consequences of that they were prescribing, and the incontrovertible evidence of the medical problems stemming primarily from the use of drugs that Elvis experienced over his last 4 years to understand the cause of death.

Joe Esposito was in charge of the funeral arrangements, but Vernon made clear his preference on every one of the significant details. The original plan was to conduct the service at The Memphis Funeral Home, where Gladys Presley's funeral had been held, but Vernon insisted this time that the ceremony be at home - Just as he and Elvis wanted for Elvis's mother. He wouldn't budge in his determination to give the fans the chance to see Elvis for the very last time. They had remained loyal from the very start of his amazing career, so Vernon wanted that to happen. Joe had sent out the Lisa Marie jet to pick up Priscilla and her family, Jerry Schilling, Joe's new girlfriend Shirley Dieu and former wife Jeanie. He also helped with travel arrangements for Linda Thompson and Ed Parker, and a lot more people too. Priscilla had said maybe they should keep the numbers low, he agreed. They didn't want the whole thing turning into a zoo.

Vernon wanted a cooper casket similar to the one which they had buried Gladys in, and funeral director Bob Kendall was able to find one in Oklahoma City while somehow managing to locate 17 white Cadillac limousines for the funeral cartage, though there was only 3 in town. Elvis was be to buried in a white suit that his father had given him and TCB lighting bolt ring on his finger. Vernon asked Charlie and Larry Geller to do his hair and make up so Elvis would good look for his fans.

South Central Bell requested that all Memphians restrict themselves to emergency calls because the lines were busy and some were being cut, in order to stop the calls about Elvis. The local florists were flooded with orders over three thousand, they worked day and night to keep up with orders. The demand was out of the world.

At 1.00am, Vernon called the Reverend C.W. Bradley, Minister of the Wooddale Church of Christ, which Vernon's estranged wife, Dee, attended. Vernon scarcely knew Bradley, he was not much of a formal churchgoer himself, and Elvis only met Bradley at his Uncle's funeral. yet Bradley was fully understanding of all the reasons why Mr. Presley would want his son to have a proper ceremony. He said ' Will you be willing to do this funeral for my son?' Bradley told him of cause he would be willing. Then Vernon said ' Now I know you don't have mechanical music at your church, and we're going to have an organ at my son's, would that be ok?. Bradley told him it would not and they began to talk about what kind of service Vernon wanted.

There would, of cause, be music like Vernon said. The music was the good old fashioned quartet singing that Elvis loved ever since he was a little boy. J.D. Sumner and The Stamps, The Statesmen, Jake Hess and James Blackwood had all agreed to perform. Vernon had also hoped that Reverend Bradley wouldn't mind if Rex Humbard, a Televangelist whom Elvis met in Las Vegas could say a few words, and Bradley didn't mind.
Soon Priscilla had arrived and Lisa Marie ran into her Mother's arms. Mother and Daughter cried together before Lisa Marie went to play outside, Priscilla went to see Vernon and they both cried for ages and talked about the old days. Joe pulled her aside and give her back the private Polaroid's and video tapes Elvis filmed of her years ago. Priscilla was shocked and couldn't believe her ex husband whom she knew for 19 years was gone, it was hard to take it. Outside Graceland, the group of fans grew larger and there was a lot of fans waiting outside the Memphis Funeral Home.

Then Larry and Charlie reported to the funeral home in accordance with Vernon's request, early the next morning, August 17th. Charlie trimmed and colored his sideburns while Larry cut and styled Elvis's hair, and then they consulted on the make-up job. Back in Graceland, Joe began to move all the furniture from the living room before the casket arrived. Soon the single white hearse preceded by a motorcycle escort, drove to Graceland before noon. The crowd out front which had grown to 50 thousand, clamored for a glimpse as the copper casket was carried up the steps to the front door. Meanwhile a number of fans climbed the trees on the grounds of Graceland Christian Church next door. You could hear limbs snapping as they struggled to get a better look.

The coffin was placed in the archway between the living room and the music room on the far south end of the house, and family and close friends were given a chance to pay their respects before the public viewing, that was to take place at mid afternoon. Vernon's knees buckled, Grandma Presley almost collapsed, but the Colonel, who had arrived from Portland early that morning, resolutely rejected any opportunity to view the body. So far as anyone could remember the Colonel had never attended a funeral before - Though no one could recall his ever articulating his thoughts on the subject either, he didn't really have to. No-one could miss the intensity of his chats with Vernon in the kitchen, as he buttonholed the grieving father and tried to impress upon him the seriousness of the situation. They were in the need right now, even in the midst of mourning, to firmly fix their minds upon the future. It was almost like Elvis was in Germany Col. Tom told Vernon, the sick money makers were ready to swoop down and take everything away from them. Colonel told Vernon people are now making money off them and if they didn't make a move, Elvis's name and legacy would be used. Colonel Tom made it clear to Vernon it's time to make a stand and keep Elvis's name and legacy to him, Lisa Marie and of cause, the Col. Tom himself. All Vernon did was nod. He was too upset to really care about that now. Vernon's face was gaunt and reflected a sorrow almost beyond expression, he found it so hard to really understand the whole problem. Priscilla and Elvis's men were angry that the Col had the cheek to do this now, this wasn't the time or the place. Yet Vernon knew that the Colonel really cared about Elvis and the family. Vernon also knew that Colonel Tom had his and Lisa's best interests at heart.

For the viewing, which was scheduled to last from 3pm, Elvis's body was moved to the foyer, underneath a crystal chandelier just inside the door, white lined was laid out on the floor underneath the casket, and outside, the lawn was a sea of flowers. Wire reports described the scene as verging on mass hysteria, as four at a time fans filed by the stone lions guarding the door, pass the casket and back out the door into the 90 degree heat. Several mourners fainted on the marble floor and had to be carried out. A quarter mile away down the driveway, with a sheriff's deputy every few yards, a throng stretching a mile on either side, pushed and shoved to the next through the gates - Hundreds fainted in the heat. Many revived with a rubber gloves filled with ice, staggered back into the crowds, only to faint again. Radio stations played Elvis's greatest hits and more police were bought in from around Memphis and outside Memphis too, they helped to keep the fans at bay.

There were bodyguards on three exposed sides of the coffin, and Vernon hovered watchfully, as if to protect his son from ever present dangers. He was no more able to protect him from betrayal in death the in life, though, cousin Bobby Mann took the now famous photo of Elvis lying in his coffin with a Minox camera. He then sold it for $78,000 to the National Enquirer which Vernon would discover only when the tabloid ran the photo on the cover of it's next issue. In the photo Elvis looked pale and waxy, but he is still surprisingly handsome, composed and at rest in a way that seemed almost foreign to those who remembered a man rarely at rest. Dedicated diarist Donna Lewis expressed the feeling of many of the fans when she wrote in her journal that Elvis didn't look like himself at all. ' He looked awful....it hurt. It hurt deep'

At 5pm Vernon was persuaded by the mess of people still waiting outside the gates to allow the viewing to continue for another hour and half. He agreed because his sons fan were loyal and they needed to say their last goodbyes. Once the time was over, the fans slowly walked away in the light rain. One fan did tell press ' The wall around Graceland is low enough, I could jump over'. Then he looked into the house, shook her head and added ' I could never do that to Elvis, he meant the the world to me'. Then she walked off with her boyfriend.

After the viewing, the coffin was moved back into the living room, where the service was scheduled to be take place the next day. It was known that over 75,000 waited to go into Graceland but only 30,000 people saw his body. Over 200 people needed medical help that day. Soul singer James Brown, requested, and got some time alone with Elvis. The house was still. Charlie walked around in a daze, Joe kept an eye on the relatives at all times and Col. Tom was uncharacteristically silent. Vernon would walk into the living room time and time again, to pat his son gently on the forehead.

Robert Kendall was the Elvis's funeral director of the Memphis Funeral home. Having arranged the funeral service for Gladys Love Presley, Elvis's mother, 19 years previously Kendall thought is only appropriate that Elvis should be buried in an identical $8,000 casket as his mother. The particular model of copper lined casket also provided a two by four inch stainless steel cylinder for identification purposes in the event the remains, sometime in the future are exhumed. Such ID vials included the necessary information on chemically treat paper that list information of the deceased. Elvis's cylinder read:

Elvis Aaron Presley
Born January 8, 1935 - Died August 16, 1977
Funeral August 18, 1977 at 2pm in Graceland
Interment same day at Forest Hills Cemetery (Midtown Memphis, Tennessee)

(This information still remains in Elvis casket despite the fact that in November 1977 Elvis was re-buried at Graceland upon his father's request. As Kendall had forgotten to update the details to final resting place to read: Graceland Meditation Gardens)

Usually, Robert Kendall discourages family to place valuables inside the coffin for the most obvious of reasons and made that clear to Vernon Presley, however, this time against his better judgment he allowed a small token from Lisa Marie who was only nine years old at the time.

During the first day of private viewing Lisa Marie approached Kendall while still holding her mother's hand and asked, Mister Kendall can I give this to my daddy? With that she held out her other hand to display a thin metal bracelet.

In this case being only a child Kendall could deduce that Lisa Marie was terrified to touch her beloved father's body.

Instead of taking the bracelet from Lisa Marie, Kendall took her hand walked her to her daddy's bier. Lisa Marie holding the bracelet approached the casket. She did not look at the father's body when Kendall asked her to point to which wrist she wanted Kendall to put it on. Instead of pointing to her daddy's wrist she pointed to her own right wrist.

Kendall realised then that already in her tender innocence Lisa has an innate aversion to touching the corpse of a person she loved so very dearly. Thus it was left to Kendall who gently lifted her father's right forearm just enough to slip the trinket into place. Lisa Marie looked down at the floor throughout the whole procedure.

Thank you, sir, whispered Lisa Marie while walking hand in hand with Kendall until she reached her mother in the hallway.

Just before she turned to walk away, Lisa Marie questioned Kendall , will it stay there always?

Kendall assured her that it would be there forever.

As Lisa Marie headed for the front door, Priscilla Presley asked if Kendall would cover the bracelet with the shirt cuff so it couldnt be seen. Although she did not offer any reason Kendall suspected that it was so that it would remain safe without temptation to be taken as a final memento.

It was after 10pm when the word came up that 19 year old Caroline Kennedy was waiting at the gates, and she was proudly escorted to the front door and into the house. Vernon couldn't believe that the slain President's daughter came in the middle of the night to pay her respects, infact she was working and interviewing fans outside in the street. Caroline was upset over the death of Elvis and she viewed the body too, she couldn't believe he was gone. She had reported the family watched the news all day and night to see what they were talking about. No one spoke all night until Priscilla told everyone they should go and get some sleep. Sam Thompson stayed with the body all night until Dick Grob took over in the morning. Outside, thousands of fans lingered and got their place to say goodbye to Elvis for good. About 4am on the 18th, funeral day, Alice Marie Hovatar, Juanita Joanne Johnson and Tammy Baiter were just hanging out and chatting with the other 300 or so mourners holding an all night vigil in front of the mansion. Greatise Wheeler, came driving through the area in a 1963 white Ford. He was driving south on Elvis Presley Blvd, but turned off into some lots on the right, (where Elvis Inc. is located now) and he turned around to head back north. His tires were burning. I don't think the girls knew what hit them. Wheeler barreled through the crowd, going about 40 or 50 mph. Officer F. M. McCann, who was standing nearby stated, " I heard the noise of his tires screeching and turned just in time to see his car hit the three bodies, One of the bodies flew up in the air about five feet and landed on the windshield. A second was plastered against the front of the car. The third was being dragged under the car. He dragged her about 20 yards." The car kept going, dragging the Baiter girl, but began sputtering from the impact of the bodies and slowed to a halt about a block away. Wheeler jumps out and does a runner, but the cops nabbed him. He was drunk and there were three 16-year-old girls in the car with him. The victims were taken to City of Memphis Hospital. The two dead girls (Hovatar and Johnson) were mangled beyond recognition, and their purses and identity papers were scattered on the highway. The really scary thing about this part of it were the Elvis fans that were watching. After the initial excitement calmed, some of them yelled out, "Let's lynch him!"

On August 18th at 9am, 100 vans began to carry the flowers to the cemetery, a task that took nearly 4 hours to complete. At noon, guests started to turn up for the service at 2pm. The singers had met in Charlie's room earlier in the day to confer about their parts. At Priscilla's urging, Kathy Westmoreland was going to sing Heavenly Father, which she always performed on the show to Elvis's rapt attention, with Statesmen founder Hovie Lister accompanying her on piano. James Blackwood, who had sung at Gladys Presley's funeral and known Elvis even since he was a Blackwood Brothers teenage fan, would deliver Elvis's signature piece How Great Thou Art, with orchestra leader Joe Guerico conducting. Jake Hess, former lead singer for the Statesmen and one of the singers Elvis most admired throughout his life, was present and was going to recreate Known Only To Him, one of the many song Elvis had recorded in explicit homage to him idol. Finally, J.D Sumner and The Stamps would contribute the majority of the program with a selection of hymns for the most part taken from songs they had sung with Elvis on stage.

Linda Thompson wore Lavender and Kathy Westmoreland wore white, because that was how each felt Elvis would have wanted her to look. Nearly everyone else arrived garbed in one form or another dressed in black. Only Col. Tom Parker stood out in characteristically adamant exception. ' You never wore a tie for Elvis when he was alive' His admonished promoter Tom Hulett told him as they left their hotel, so Col. Tom changed clothes and wore a baseball cap, seersuckers pants, and a blue short sleeved shirt, fiercely unrepentant for any pain he might give to others. The two hundred invited guests quietly filed into the living room and waited for the service to start. Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton and Chat Atkins had arrived from Nashville, Ann Margaret and her husband, Roger Smith had flown in from Las Vegas with Dr. Ghanem, and there was a substantial representation of the Colonel's associates and RCA executives....but it was mostly family and close friends who filled up the wooden folding chairs and spilling over into the hallway, where Col. Tom Parker remained leaning up against a wall peering in at the ceremony from time to time.

The service started with the playing of Danny Boy on the organ. It was scheduled to take no more then half an hour, but with Rex Humbard's guest sermon, all of the musical selections, plus a eulogy that comedian Jackie Kahane had asked Vernon if he could deliver, it was clear from the start of the ceremony it would ran considerably overtime. Humbard spoke of his meetings with Elvis in Las Vegas and how he had gotten down on his knees and prayed with him. Jackie Kahane who had conceived of the idea for an informal tribute only when he realized no one else in the group was going to give one, give a brief but graceful speech touching on the sense of family that had grown up among them all and the generous and quirky spirit who had been their leader. When Kathy Westmoreland sung Heavenly Father with Hovie Lister accompanying her in a matter that bore little resemblance to the way it sounded on stage, she could see Elvis laughing about it and saying ' Kathy, that's not the way we always arrange it!'.

The main sermon, by Reverend Bradley, stressed the inspiring example that Elvis had provided of the potential of a human being who has strong desire and unfailing determination. It spoke of Elvis's fundamental decency, and how in a society that has talked so much about the generation gap, the closeness of Elvis and father......was so heartwarming to observe. But Elvis, Bradley said, was a frail human being too and he would have been the first to admit his weaknesses. Maybe because of his fast rise to fame and fortune, he was thrown into temptations that some never get to experience. Elvis would have not want anyone to think he had no flaws or faults. But now he is gone, I find it more helpful to remember his good qualities, and I hope you do too. Vernon's racking sobs could be heard throughout the ceremony and afterwards, the mourners would go up one by one and say a final goodbye. Ann Margaret tried to console Vernon, but the two friends held onto each other and cried.

Then 9 pallbearers - Joe, Charlie, Felton, Lemar, Jerry Schilling, George Klein, Elvis's Cousins Billy and Gene Smith and Dr. Nick- bore the coffin out the front door. Just as they did, a limb on one of the big Oak trees out in the front yard snapped and fell, barely, missing the funeral party. Elvis always said once he's dead, he will send out a message to say he is at peace and happy at last. Everyone was shocked but Lamar didn't miss a beat. ' We knew you'd be back' he wisecracked ' Just not this soon'.

They made the three and one half mile journey to the cemetery in a cortege made up of 49 cars led by a Silver Cadillac, a police motorcycle, a white hearse and Vernon in the first of the 17 white limousines. Both sides of the road were lined with a crowd estimated at 15 to 20 thousand, and Joe saw Cliff Gleaves standing mournfully among them as they drove past. No one at the gates of Graceland let him in.

Once they arrived at the cemetery, the pallbearers carried the rose petal strewn coffin past a massive bank of floral arrangements - Hound Dogs, crowns, guitars and broken heart, the loving tributes from his loyal fans around the world. Then the coffin was carried up the stark gray mausoleum steps just a few hundred feet away from Gladys Presley's grave. Reverend Bradley give a brief 5 minute ceremony in the mausoleum chapel, and then family filed into the crypt one by one to touch or kiss the casket one last time. Vernon remained alone with his son for a few minutes after everyone else left, and he bent down and kissed the casket goodbye. He walked out and then was helped into the car.

Then the mausoleum was cleared as 5 workman entered the room with a wheelbarrow full of sand, a 5 gallon bucket of water, some cement and then applied an exterior marble facing which would be inscribed later. Yet even before the workmen did they work, fans had come into the cemetery the back away and pressed themselves against the heavy steel doors of the mausoleum.

Elvis Aaron Presley was laid to rest.

Meanwhile everyone went back to Graceland for a southern supper. Later that night, Vernon directed that all the flowers were to be given away to the fans. They were still waiting outside Graceland and when the news got out, they all waited outside the cemetery. When the doors opened at 8.25am, the next day, fans walked in and by noon, every last spray and blossom were gone.

There was a bizarre and almost laughably attempt to steal Elvis's body, just 11 days after he was laid to rest. So Vernon got scared and was given go ahead to have Elvis's and Gladys removed and then reburied in the Meditation Garden at Graceland on October 27 1977. ' I guess they will finally get to rest' Vernon remarked at a small grave side gathering restricted to close family early that evening.

Following is the wording of Elvis' epitaph as seen on his tombstone, written by Janelle McComb, commissioned and directed by Elvis' father Vernon Presley:

Elvis
Aaron
Presley

January 8, 1935
August 16, 1977

Son of Vernon Elvis Presley and Gladys Love Presley
Father of Lisa Marie Presley

He was a precious gift from God we cherished and loved dearly
He had a God-given talent that he shared with the world
And without a doubt, he became most widely acclaimed;
Capturing the hearts of young and old alike.

He was admired not only as an entertainer, but as the great humanitarian that he was;
For his generosity, and his kind feelings for his fellow man.
He revolutionized the field of music and received its highest awards

He became a living legend in his own time; earning the respect and love of millions
God saw that he needed some rest and called him home to be with Him
We miss you, Son and Daddy. I thank god that He gave us you as our son

(TCB logo)

By: Vernon Presley

'God let me come along at this time' Elvis 1977



































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COPYRIGHT INFORMATION.
This website is run and maintained by Rebecca Stone. I have borrowed pictures, infomation and other materials from different websites. I will give them the credit where it's due. The biography is all mine and if you wanna use it, please ask for my permission. Otherwise enjoy your stay here with me in the wonderful world of Elvis Aaron Presley.
Copyright: Rebecca Stone 2005

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