By Thomas Sellers Jr.
I will enter this Best Sellers’ List admitting I have a bias.
For the past month I’ve been counting down the best of our coverage areas at The Bartlett Express, The Collierville Herald-Independent, The Shelby Sun Times and The Millington Star. I’ve been affiliated with The Star since 2003 and became the editor of the publication a few years later.
Millington and the surrounding areas are my home now. My family has literally grown because of the 38053 ZIP code.
My dad’s side of the family originates in Tipton County, and I grew up down the road in Frayser. So my Millington roots are firmly established.
It was a challenge to find just 10 things to showcase about the best-kept secret of Shelby County. Flag City is home to patriotism, spiritual strength, amazing resolve, an appreciation of history and loyalty.
While embracing new technology like the Millington Solar Farm, a quick ride down Wilkinsville Road brings you mere feet away from homes built at the turn of the 20th century.
While Highway 51 North is developing and blooming, a local can still head to Dr. Leroy Boatwright Street to do a little shopping and grab something to eat.
The nearby railroad tracks outline the old downtown Millington, providing flashbacks to 1903 when the city was officially chartered by the state. Continue on Navy Road and you’ll probably hear a fighter jet blazing overhead.
Resident Faye Ellis Osteen literally wrote the book on the city’s history, named “Millington, The First Hundred Years.”
The book dives into Millington’s industrial development, strong family ties, the history of the schools and the vital relationship with the United States military. All these things are still vibrant today in Flag City.
Before listing the 10 best things about Millington, here are a few honorable mentions: USA Stadium, Goat Days, Millington Area Chamber of Commerce, Millington Municipal Schools, Millington Education Foundation, Tipton-Rosemark Academy, E.A. Harrold community, The Big Four (Glen Eagle, Mirimichi, Forest Hill and Orgill golf courses), Shelby Forest General Store, Roland’s, Millington Cleaners, Boatwright’s, Millington Solar Panel, VFW Post 7175, Dagen’s, El Toro Taco, Alison’s Alcove, Playhouse 51, Jones’ Orchard and the legacy of W.S. Babe Howard.
10. Millington-Memphis Airport
Executive director Roy Remington is in charge of 400 acres called the Millington-Memphis Airport. Having undergone a few name changes in recent years, the second largest airport in Shelby County is ready for takeoff as home of the CTI Professional Flight Training and Tulsair Beachcraft Memphis FBO.
Currently undergoing infrastructure changes to the facilities, the Millington-Memphis Airport is still hosting special events and guests coming to town.
The facility has been bringing people to town since the early 1900s, when the military aviation first came to Memphis during World War I. The U.S. Army leased 904 acres from the Memphis Chamber of Commerce to establish Park Field for flight training on Nov. 26, 1907.
After World War II, the Navy took over the property, leading to the present-day airport.
I’ve flown over this airport five times when air shows would come to town. It never gets old getting into a jet, plane or classic warbird.
Remington, the staff and Millington Airport Authority work hard to make sure world-class events are still coming to town. Meanwhile they hold on to the traditions that made the airport a designation for decades.
9. NSA Mid-South
Commander Michael Mosi has been very visible in Millington since taking over the post. He continues a strong tradition of the Navy’s working relationship with the city. Mosi calls Naval Support Activity Mid-South home along with thousands of others. NSA Mid-South is a part of the Navy Region Midwest and the Navy Installations Command, and NSA Mid-South serves as the Navy’s Human Resources Center of Excellence.
More than 7,500 military, civilian and contract personnel are assigned and work on base. Decades ago the base was the life support of Millington. The economy was driven by the recruits shopping, eating and enjoying entertainment in the city.
Today the base serves a different purpose in the community but still contributes in a major way to the financial support of the town.
8. Shoppes of Millington Farms
Back in 2016, the late state Rep. Ron Lollar visited a view of his old friends in Millington to mark the groundbreaking for the Shoppes of Millington Farms. Lollar broke down the process of how the newest shopping center in Flag City was born. It was a who’s who that transformed dirt into the stores thousands have enjoyed since December 2016. Guests who shared the microphone that day of the groundbreaking were Millington Mayor Terry Jones, Terry Roland, Reginald Milton, Willie Brooks, Charles Gulotta, Nelson Williams and developer Gil Ryan of Ryan Commercial Properties.
Now there is a thriving retail area on Highway 51 North that draws in customers from North Memphis and South Tipton County. The nearby restaurants are glad to give shoppers a place to rest and reenergize.
The Shoppes of Millington Farms is a lovely centerpiece to the continuing growth of Flag City.
Next up will be developing subdivisions, and I’m pretty sure the Shoppes will expand to accommodate the new locals. By the way, Five Below is my favorite store in the Shoppes of Millington Farms.
7. Taste of Millington
The members of the Millington Rotary Club have created an annual party to benefit local charities. It is one of my favorite assignments each April to head to the N-82 Gymnasium for the Taste of Millington.
In one location, all the best eateries in the city and beyond come under one roof and provide samples. Some of the things I’ve eaten over the years were homemade guacamole, prime steak, fresh-baked cookies, glazed donuts, tender ribs and Sarah Lee’s sweet potato pie.
All the best of the best make the trip to the Hanger each year to take full advantage of the platform provided by the Rotary Club.
6. Millington Family YMCA
Lizzie McLean and the crew at the Millington Family YMCA at 7725 E. Navy Circle have been blazing a path through town and nearby communities. They have taken the YMCA’s mission and spread it to as many as possible with vehicles like the internet and the Y on the Fly van.
But truly seeing the best of the Millington Y is walking through the doors. Great facilities, informative and welcoming staff and great instructors.
From swimming to weightlifting, the center is equipped for all your fitness needs. But what garners the Y a spot on this countdown is additional benefits you receive from a trip to the Millington Y.
One of the best parts to my Sunday workout at the Y is talking with Mr. Danny. I get a spiritual boost and a life lesson. Mr. Danny greets all of the members and guests with a smile. He will share some advice about the machines or give you pointers about how to navigate the treacherous roads of everyday life.
Mr. Danny is a prime example of the dedicated service you get at the Millington Y. He’s not judgmental. He is well-informed. And Mr. Danny is simply friendly. That is the perfect representation of the crew at the Millington Family Y. The water park, Olympic-size pool, exercise classes and weights are just bonuses.
To the north you have Burlison, Brighton, Munford, Atoka, Rosemark and Drummonds. Head down Highway 51, and you’ll run into Lucy, Woodstock, Northaven, Frayser and Raleigh. The heart of all these communities is Millington. If you ever pay a visit to the “Mall of Millington,” also known as the Millington Walmart, you will run into people from as far south as Frayser and as far north as Covington.
So many current residents of Millington used to call Frayser home. And a strong portion of the South Tipton County population either work in Millington or once called Flag City home.
There is a strong bond between these towns. They share schools, churches, a movie theater, shopping centers, jobs and most importantly homes. They are really neighbors and have formed a neighborhood rich in history and love.
4. Flag City Freedom Celebration
One event that brings several people together each year is the Flag City Freedom Celebration. The former home of the festival dedicated to the birthday of our nation was at Navy Lake. Now USA Stadium is home to the patriotic party featuring games, music, food, car shows and the best fireworks show in the Mid-South. About 9 p.m. on a date early in July, the Millington sky lights up with colorful explosions.
I have to give a shout out to the crew who works for the City of Millington, making it come to fruition. They put in a lot of hours to make sure the event runs smoothly and is a first-class affair.
No matter what is going on in the city or how hot the weather may be, when it is time for the Flag City Freedom Celebration, all is set aside for a few hours to enjoy what makes America and Millington so great.
3. Millington veterans and Christmas parades
Millington’s recognition of holidays and observances only gets better as the year goes along. After a lengthy absence, the city brought back the Veterans Parade in 2014. The VFW Post 7175 joined forces with the city, local businesses, American Legion, other veteran organizations and the NJROTC to honor our veterans around Veterans Day.
It is a way for the residents to say thank you to those who serve and work right next door to them daily on the base.
Fast forward three weeks, and the first Saturday in December is the annual date for the Millington Christmas Parade. You will be in the holiday spirit by the time St. Nick is waving and greeting everyone along Navy Road.
I love all the holiday spirit coming from floats, children grabbing candy and seeing the little child come out of people like Millington Fire Chief Gary Graves and Millington Police Chief Mark Dunbar.
A sea of green, red and ugly Christmas sweaters surround Millington aldermen, important business figures and Millington Municipal School educators. You get a sense of family and an overwhelming feeling of holiday innocence by the time the fire truck with Santa turns on Leroy Boatwright Street.
2. Millington Central High School
The heart of Millington pumps black and gold. I’ve never before seen a community and a school have such a strong bond. Millington Central High School is rich in tradition, academic excellence, athletic success and giving back to the community.
To understand how important MCHS is to Millington, I could point out all the alumni who have returned to teach at the school. I could not believe how the school has produced professional basketball players like Jasmine Newsome and Tony Dumas. Don’t get me started on the NFL players from MCHS, like Alan Cross and George Odum recently.
And countless MCHS grads are in the professional world, making major moves across the world. But to emphasize the impact of MCHS on Millington, just look at the administration team.
Principal Mark Neal came back home after five years away and never lost touch with the community or school. New Assistant Principal Ben Rollins was eager to join the staff because of his working relationship with Neal and all the great things he heard about MCHS.
Mickey Wilhite has elevated her role at the school, going into her 20th year. She is a third-generation teacher at MCHS.
MCHS has another new assistant principal in Zane Adams. But he’s a familiar face as a graduate, two-sport standout, former head baseball coach and teacher at his alma mater.
The person who truly exemplifies the Trojan spirit is longtime Assistant Principal Beth Hale. She has been in the classrooms, walked the halls of the original building, coached historic teams and founded events that are firmly a part of the MCHS fabric.
Hale has been at the school so long, some students think she founded the school back in 1907. While she’s much younger than that, Hale approaches her job at MCHS with zeal and a youthful energy.
Hale loves her school, colleagues and most importantly her students. She provides them the tough love they need and makes them accountable. The children might not be her biggest fan while enrolled, but they learn to appreciate her methods once they walk across that stage.
I’ve seen so many of them come back years later to give her a hug and say thank you. Hale is great in her role at MCHS because the school prepares so many of those children for life and the real world.
1. The people
Millington Education Foundation member Cary Vaughn once said Millington has salt-of-the-earth people.
Millington Mayor Terry Jones always refers to the residents of Millington as down-to-earth people.
Former MACC executive director Diane Baker would brag on her hometown everywhere she went.
And the first principal I had the privilege of covering at MCHS was Nancy Norwood. “People in Millington are just real,” she told me during her farewell interview.
If I started listening names of people who have made a major impact on my career and life, I would definitely leave out several.
Instead I will keep it brief. I would like to say thank you to all those who have encouraged me, motivated me, kept me accountable, inspired me and shown me love over the past 16 years.
The people of Millington and the surrounding areas are outstanding, and I can truly call them family. And that all started on a January night in 2005. Then Assistant Principal James “Bo” Griffin saw sadness coming from my spirit.
He came over and genuinely asked how I was doing. I shared with him the news of my aunt passing away. “Thomas, we’re here for you. You’re family, and we take care of family.”
Among all his duties that night, Coach G kept checking in on me during the basketball doubleheader.
Today Griffin is the superintendent, and he still checks on me to make sure Thomas the person is doing OK.
That’s Millington in a nutshell. During the highs and lows, once you’re family, you are family for life.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.