By Ralphine Major
“After two years (1962-1963) of practicing general dentistry in the Knoxville area, I knew that, rather than general practice, there was more in the profession that I wanted.” Those words were expressed by Perry McGinnis, though they could describe the feelings of many people who strive to find their place in life with a job that provides not only an income but gives much joy and satisfaction as well.
Perry met with a close personal friend and dental school classmate for lunch to talk about possible alternatives in his quest to find his true calling. During that lunch with the late Dr. Ben Alley, a well known oral surgeon in Knoxville and at The University of Tennessee (UT) Hospital, he encouraged Perry to inquire about a post-doctoral program in pathology conducted jointly through the UT Colleges of Dentistry and Medicine at the UT Medical Center in Memphis. “This program was headed by one of our former dental school teachers, Dr. James F. Smith, and was part of a U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Fellowship that provided graduate training, teaching experience, and research in pathology,” Perry said. “After contacting Dr. Smith for details, the application was culminated with my enrollment in January 1964, thus, laying the groundwork for an almost 40-year career as an oral pathologist and dental academician,” he added. But, for Perry to pursue his dream that would lead to this outstanding career, it meant a second move to Memphis for their, now, family of four.
The young McGinnis family lived in Whitehaven, a neighborhood in South Memphis near the Mississippi state line. This would be their home from January 1964 through June 1977. “Prior to being purchased by Elvis, and before he gave the farm its new name of Graceland, that land was a working horse farm where we used to rent and ride horses,” Perry said. “After Elvis moved in, we used to see and photograph him with his many friends riding their go-carts around the long driveways inside the beautiful wrought iron gate and fence.” What a special memory to have of the late rock-n-roll idol! (To be continued)