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April 22 , 2010

Memphis and the Superflood of 1937

High Water Blues


The greatest flood in United States history struck the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys in January 1937. Perhaps no single flood in the United States had caused as much damage, displayed as much brutal natural force and displaced as many people. Not even the calamitous flood of 1927, which has eclipsed the ’37 flood in terms of historical coverage was as massive. Author and Memphis local Patrick O’Daniel illustrates how this national natural disaster affected Memphis, in particular, and how the politicians of the day—from national figures like FDR to local political bosses like Ed Crump—handled unprecedented infrastructural challenges. Yet beyond politics and policy, O’Daniel tells the story of this historic disaster through the eyes of everyday Memphians—their struggles, care for thousands of desperate refugees and the measures they took to save their city from this devastating flood.

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