October 19, 1956
Audience Flips As Our Presley Wins In Court
Teenage idol Elvis Presley barely managed a shy grin as he walked from a packed courtroom yesterday after roll-ing to a second and legal decision over two filling station men he rocked in a fist fight.
City court was crowded with giggling and curious adults who applauded with gusto when Acting Judge Sam Fried-man told Presley:
"The testimony points to the guilt of the other men. I´ll dismiss you."
The rock and roll singer had been charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct.
His opponents in Thursday´s fight at the Gulf Station at Second and Gayoso were fined.
Edd Hopper, 42, of 3295 Cicalla, station manager, paid a $26 fine. He appeared in Court with a bandage over an inch-long gash near his bruised eye where Presley hit him.
Aubrey Brown, 21, of 262 South Pauline, a big six-four station attendant, was fined $16. Disorderly conduct charges against both men were dismissed.
Cameras flashed and girls screamed, "Oh, there´s Elvis," as the 21-year-old Presley started into the courtroom.
There were 207 women and girls waiting for him.
Accompanied By Father
He arrived with his father, Vernon Presley, just as the morning court session was getting under way at 9:10.
Dressed in a rust-colored sport jacket and open-collared shirt he took a seat in the last row and quietly watched the judge try 12 persons on public drunkenness charges.
Then his case was heard.
The judge said he gave Hopper a heavier fine because the case against him was more serious than against Brown.
Three patrolmen who broke up the fight testified Hopper struck Elvis first as the singer sat in his $11,000 Continental Mark II parked in front of the station´s gasoline pumps.
They said Hopper pulled a knife on Presley after he jumped out and punched the station manager.
Judge Friedman asked Presley, who likes to spar with boxing gloves at home, to give his version.
Presley said he was alone and driving along Gayoso when something went wrong with the air conditioning unit. Fumes were coming up in the car making his "eyes water."
I pulled into the station and asked the men to look at my car," he testified. "When I got back in it some Hull-Dobbs salesmen came over and started kidding me about trading my Continental for a Ford.
Agreed To Move
He said Hopper asked him to move and he replied, "Yes, sir, I will."
Three girls then rushed over and asked for autographs.
"I was writing my name, and trying to hurry, when Mr. Hopper asked me to move again. There were people in front of the car and you don´t drive off suddenly when people are friendly and talking to you.
"I was signing the autographs and was turning on my key when he reached in the window and hit me on the head with his hand."
"I was more or less stunned because I wasn´t expecting that. I started to get out of the car and he pushed me back. Then I jumped out and hit him and he pulled a knife on me.
"Then that other gentleman, Mr. Brown, ran to me and said "You can´t do that to him," and swung at me. "I don´t remember whether I got hit or not but I hit him. Then the policemen stopped the fight."
Police Back Story
Patrolmen Tom Yaeger and R. E. Ferguson said Presley´s story was correct. Patrolman Yaeger said, " His car was completely surrounded and he couldn´t pull away. I was trying to clear some of the girls away from the front of the car when Hopper said, " I don´t give a damn if you´re Elvis Presley" and reached into the car and struck him."
Patrolman Yaeger said Presley got out and knocked Hopper back about 10 feet with a blow. He said Hopper then drew a pocket knife with a three-inch blade.
"I saw the open knife in his hand. I jumped between Presley and Hopper and told Hopper to go into the station. I was not holding Hopper when Presley hit him."
Mr Hopper testified the pocket knife wasn´t open and that Presley´s car had his gasoline pumps blocked about 20 minutes. He claimed officers held him when Presley struck him.
Mr. Brown said he tried to hit Presley but missed. He said Presley had been asked to move in a "nice way" but had refused.
Advice From Court
Judge Friedman told Presley: "I realize your position and that crowds follow you wherever you go. I will give you this advice - in the future try to be considerate and co-operate with businessmen. Avoid crowds where business will be interupted."
To Hopper and Brown he said: "You should have called police to move Mr. Presley if, as you have said, he stayed longer than a reasonable time. The law does not permit you to strike any man."
When the judge dismissed the singer´s charges, people in the courtroom applauded. Judge Friedman pounded his gavel and said, "Stop this applause! This is a courtroom, not a show."
Earlier the judge told photographers they could shoot pictures in the courtroom but that he wouldn´t permit flash bulbs.
Presley said he planned to leave last night for Biloxi, Miss., for a short vacation before appearing Sunday, Oct. 28, on Ed Sullivan´s television show in New York.
When he walked into the street from the courtroom, motorists waved and yelled at him and pedestrians begged him to let them be photographed with him.
"Still My Friends"
"These people are still my friends," he said as a half-dozen screaming girls, all about 15, asked him for autographs.
A mounted policeman rode up on a horse and Presley said, "Say, you ought to come up to the house and see my mules. I´ve got two Mexican burros. Come and see them."
A little woman, about 65, stood in front of him and said, "I´m just an old lady but I like you too."
Presley reached down, took her face in his hands.
"You look like you´re 25 years old to me."
As he drove away in his car she turned to another woman and said, "Isn´t he a dandy?"
FATHERLY ADVICE - Vernon Presley (left) gave advice to his 21-year-old son during the trial of Elvis and two gasoline station attendants in City Court yesterday. Charges against the rock and roll singer were dismissed.
THE LINEUP - The three principals in the fight at Gayoso and Second took the oath before acting Judge Sam Friedman. Edd Hopper (left) and Aubrey Brown (center) were fined for their parts in the fist fight.
Above: Copyright: Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 20, 1956
Below: Copyright: Memphis Press Scimitar, October 20, 1956.
Two-Punch Battle: One Black Eye
Elvis Freed: 2 Others Fined
Elvis in Court: Singer Elvis Presley is pictured giving his account of a fist fight at a filling station. At left are Edd Hopper (wearing glasses) and Aubrey Brown, co-defendants, charged with assault and battery as result of fight. That´s the back of the head of John Hardy, City Court clerk, closest to camera.
Singer Involved In Bare-Knucks Fray
Presley Unmarked After Fracas: Foes Say It Was Unfair Fight
Elvis Presley today claimed a double victory.
The first was in a fast two-punch fist fight with two service station men.
The second was in City Court, with the "rock ´n´ roll" king being dismissed on charges of assault and battery and disorderly conduct growing out of the fight, while the two service station men were fined.
Edd W. Hopper, 42, of 3925 Cicalla, manager of the Gulf Service Station at Second and Gayoso where the brawl took place at 5 p.m. yesterday, was fined $26 by Acting Judge Sam Friedman on an assault and battery charge, and a disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.
Hopper claimed that Presley was "just telling another of his houn´ dog stories" when he said he won the fight. Hopper claimed that a policeman was holding him when Presley punched, giving him a severe black eye. Presley and police denied this.
Big Aubrey Brown, 21, of 262 S. Pauline, filling station attendant, who says he swung at Presley and missed, and was "grazed" by Presley´s return punch, was fined $16 on an assault and battery charge, was dismissed on a disorderly conduct count.
Presley, as handy with his hands as he is with twisting torso and jiggling legs while singing, was unmarked in the fight. He stands six feet and is a muscular 185 pounds, and boxing is a hobby.
Hopper today had a purple eye, his cheek was swollen and he had a couple of band aids near the eye. He wore dark glasses. Hopper weighs 175. Brown stands 6:4 and weighs 220 pounds.
LUCKY GIRL - Hundreds of girls were at the City Court trial of Elvis Presley. Many wanted to pose for pictures with him. This one did. She is Mary Anne Lewis, 17, of 215 W. Edwin Circle, and she slipped her arm around Presley when the picture was taken, outside the court-room.
Presley was alone in his sleek white Continental Mark II, which cost $11,175, when he drove into the station because gas fumes were getting into the car.
The whole story came out in City Court today.
The police station was packed with women, teen-agers, older women wearing wedding rings and even a few carrying babies. Between 8:30 and 9 a.m., they arrived in cabs, cars and even trucks. There was a terrific traffic jam, with cars backed up to Front and Fourth on Adams. Police had to handle traffic. The upstairs courtroom was packed.
There were 207 women and girls by actual count in the courtroom, many more in the corridors outside, upstairs and down. They were yelling out such remarks as "Where is our darling Elvis," and "If he gets fined, I´ll pay his fine." They took up the seating space in the courtroom usually reserved for negroes.
Presley, 21, arrived five minutes before court opened. He was wearing a rust-colored sports ensemble, slacks and jacket, with a light tan sports shirt, and shoes to harmon-ize.
Somehow, the girls didn´t see Elvis and two friends as the eased thru the crowd outside the courtroom, until they started yelling, some saying "give me a button off your coat."
Presley got inside quickly, and the girls moved over and gave him room. He sat modestly on a back bench, crowd-ed close to some thrilled girls.
First, Judge Friedman tried about 12 drunks, all at once. The girls were mostly looking at the dark-eyed singer, not at the drunks.
SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS - Elvis Presley signed a few autographs before the crowd got so thick that police had to slip him out of the station. He is pictured here signing an autograph for a man, while a policeman looks on.
Judge Friedman permitted news pictures without flash bulbs. TV cameramen worked with hand cameras.
Patrolman R. E. Ferguson said police got a fight call at 5:15 p.m. to the Gulf Station at Second and Gayoso. He produced a pearl-handled pocketknife with a three-inch blade, which he said belonged to Hopper. Ferguson said Hopper had "ditched the knife" in a restroom, where police found it. Presley charged Hopper pulled a knife on him, but Hopper denied this.
Patrolman Tom Yearger testified he was directing traffic at Second and Gayoso, noticed a crowd in the filling station, went over and saw Presley´s car completely sur-rounded by teen-agers and people clamoring for auto-graphs. He said the Mark II was parked at the pumps.
Yearger said he understood Hopper had once asked Presley to move before he arrived, and he saw Hopper come up, ask him to move the car as it was blocking the pumps, and Presley replied "Yes, sir, I will."
"Couldn´t Pull Away"
"The car was completely surrounded, and Presley couldn´t pull away," Yearger said. "I started trying to clear the traffic. I had trouble getting the girls to move from in front of the car. Hopper walked up again and said "I don´t give a damn who you are," and reached into the car and struck Presley. I couldn´t tell exactly where he struck him."
BLACK EYE - Edd W. Hopper, 42, filling station manager, had a bad black eye and swollen jaw today as a result of a Presley punch. He is shown at the service station where the telephone was constantly ringing. He refused to talk with women callers sympathetic to Presley
Policeman Tells of Knife Being Pulled on Elvis
Says He Jumped In Between The Two
"Presley got out of the car and struck Hopper on the jaw, knocking him back about 10 feet. Hopper then drew a pocket knife and opened the blade. I saw the open knife in his hand.
"I jumped in between Presley and Hopper and told Hopper to go into the service station. Hopper wouldn´t go right then. I grabbed Hopper. I was not holding Hopper when Presley hit him.
"Brown came up and said "you can´t do that, you son of a - - - - -, " to Presley, and swung at Presley. Presley then struck at Brown.
Officer L. K. Heckle testified he saw Hopper strike Presley first.
Presley testified gas fumes were coming up thru the air-conditioner, and his eyes were watering, so he pulled into the service station to have the car checked.
He said the men came out, were very courteous, and checked his car. He said they couldn´t find anything wrong. He said while he was talking to them, a crowd gathered.
Asked to Move
He said Hopper asked him the first time in a very nice way to move down.
"You know when you´ve got a crowd around the car, and in the position I´m in, you just can´t drive off from people, especially when they´re in front of your car," Presley said.
"Hopper came back and said "are you going to move this car or do I have to do it for you?" I started up the motor of my car, and was waiting for the officers to clear the young women from in front of the car to drive off when he reached in the car and struck me.
"I got out of the car and struck him on the cheek. Hopper drew a knife on me then, and the officers stepped in between. Brown swung at me. I don´t remember now whether he ever hit me or not. I swung back. I don´t think I hit him."
Hopper testified that he checked the car, couldn´t find anything wrong, and that Presley´s car had his pump blocked about 20 minutes. He said he finally went over and told him to move the car.
"He was sitting in the car with his legs and feet hanging out," Hopper said. "When Presley started out of the car, I shoved him back on the seat. I didn´t hit him. Presley got out of the car and struck me. (Earlier he had said a policeman was holding him when Presley hit him.)
"I had a pocket knife but I never took it out of my pocket. But after the officers broke up the trouble, I did throw the knife into the rest room."
Grazed His Cheek
Brown admitted he had taken a swing at Presley, but said he didn´t hit him. He said Presley had swung and "only grazed his cheek."
After Brown and Hopper were fined, and paid the fines, a reporter asked Hopper what he thought of the fine, and he said "well, it was worth it."
Judge Friedman lectured Hopper and Brown, pointing out that they had a public place, where motorists were invited in for service.
"Presley came into your place for service," Friedman said. "He may have over-stayed his time, but it was not your prerogative as an individual to take things into your own hands and assault him. If he was interfering with your business operation, you should have called police and let them handle it. In the future, when you have trouble of this nature or any other trouble, call the police.
"Brown, you took a swing at Presley and you could have created a serious situation. There is no testimony in this case to show that Mr. Presley started the trouble."
Judge Friedman said to Presley: "I realize your position and the following you have wherever you go. I will give you this advice - try to be considerate and avoid crowds where business will be interupted by your fans. I see no evidence against you, Mr. Presley."
When Judge Friedman dismissed Presley, the courtroom broke out in applause. Friedman rapped with his gavel and said "stop this applause. This is not a show, it´s a courtroom." The applause stopped.
Presley left the courtroom and had a time getting thru the corridor and down the stairs. Girls crowded around him, shouted at him. They begged photographers to take their pictures with Elvis. Some wanted pictures kissing Presley. Finally Presley reached the first floor, and police helped get him away from his fans while girls shouted they just wanted to talk to him. They took him into Commissioner Claude A. Armour´s office, where he talked with Armour seven or eight minutes, then they slipped him thru the halls and out the back way to his car.
Girls hung around quite a while before they finally accepted that Elvis had gone. One girl, who said she got off work just to talk to him, was crying because she didn´t get a chance "to say one word to him."
At his home, shortly after the fight, Presley said, "I think I got a little the better of it."
His voice slightly unsteady, he gave his account of what happened.
"The filling station man hollered, "You gonna pull out of the way?" I could tell he was getting mad.
"About that time two more ladies were asking for auto-graphs saying "it´s for our daughters, it´s for our daught-ers," and what could I do?
"The man yelled, "You gonna move it, or am I gonna have to move it for you?"
"Then he ran over and reached inside and hit me a lick on the head."
"When he did that, I got out of the car. I swung at him and connected, and this other fellow came at me and I hit him."
"I hate what happened. Nobody could be any sorrier than I am."
"I just got caught, and I couldn´t do anything else."
"I can take the slurs, but when somebody hits you, a guy has got to defend himself."
"The people who know me know I don´t want trouble."
Elvis has frequently requested reporters to play down the fact that he enjoys amateur boxing.
"There´s always some guy who thinks he has to prove something, and I don´t want any trouble," he explains.
Spars on Patio
However, he keeps a set of boxing gloves at his home, and a frequent pastime he enjoys with his friends is sparring on the patio. They belt away happily, to the ac-companiment of comments from bystanders.
Elvis, a right-hander, boxes from a left-handed stance.
Elvis said he planned to leave late today for a few days rest at Biloxi, Miss. He got home Monday from a Texas tour, where he drew tremendous crowds.
"I went back to his car altogether three times and asked him to move down," Hopper said today.
"The third time, there were two other motorists trying to drive in to the pumps and they couldn´t get in because of his car and the crowd."
"I walked up to the driver and said, "Mister, please move on down to the grease racks. You´re blocking the gas pumps and keeping my customers from getting in."
"The driver flared up and said, "I´ll move when I get good and damn ready."
"When I shoved Presley one of the officers - I don´t know who he was - ran up and grabbed me by the arms and pulled my arms behind me He was pulling me toward the statoin, and he had pulled me about 10 feet."
"The driver in the meantime had gotten out of his car and while the officer was holding me, struck me on the left cheek, giving me a beautiful black shiner eye. I could have knocked Presley out of the station if the officer hadn´t been holding me."
"I did not draw a pocketknife," Hopper said. "It´s a lie. I had a small pocketknife but I never drew it out. That´s just one of his houn´ dog lies."
The station belongs to Clarence Harwell, who was not there at the time of the incident.
A witness, whose name was not obtained said, "I don´t think police were holding Mr. Hopper, but they may have been holding Red (Mr. Brown). Mr. Hopper had his arms out in front of him, backing off when he was hit."
Harvey Huff, 2687 Dunn, and Jimmy Nunn, 554 S. Cox, Hull-Dobbs salesmen who were witnesses, said that Hopper hit Presley on the back of the head, and that Presley jumped out of the car and hit Hopper back.
Huff said he and Nunn were talking with Presley and a policeman was also present.
Police Chief J. C. Macdonald today said, "I have made a full investigation, and the officers did not hold Hopper when he was struck."
When the officers were writing out an arrest slip, they asked Presley for his name. He jokingly said "Well, maybe you´d better put down Carl Perkins." Perkins, Jackson, Tenn., is one of Presley´s leading rivals.
Presley and the two filling station men were taken to headquarters in separate police cars.
Barbara Hearn, a friend of Presley, and who was downtown, heard about the brawl and ran out and flagged the first police car. It happened to have Hopper in it. She rode to the station with Hopper, started crying when she found that Elvis had already left. His Mark II was moved to Hull-Dobbs to keep souvenir hunters from bothering it. He drove it back home after the incident, nothing having been done about the fumes.
Two telephone calls from London, Eng., newspapers came to the Hopper home late last night. There were also calls from New York and Chicago papers.
The police station also received calls from London and other distant cities.
"Calls at Station"
Hopper got no harassing calls at home, but calls were coming in at the station this morning. He declined to talk to any women calling.
Folks can´t call Presley. He has an unlisted number, one that he keeps having changed as it gets out, and even so, he often keeps the telephone off the hook. But teen-agers and others gather outside his home.