Emma Currin Wilburn
Emma Currin Wilburn

June 27, 1876April 13, 1937 (60 years old)
June 27, 1876April 13, 1937


Businesswoman extraordinaire, Mrs. Emma Wilburn, owner of New Park Cemetery, and known throughout the mid-south for keen business acumen, died at her Horn Lake Road residence Tuesday morning, April 13th at 6 a.m. Although she had been seriously ill for nearly a year, her passing came as a shock to those who have known her as a vital force in the business, civie, and social life of Memphis and the Mid-South.

Funeral arrangements had not been amde at this writing, Notice of her passing had to be sent to three of her children who live on the Pacific Coast.

A native of Tennessee, Mrs. Wilburn lived her span of life in this state. She was one of the largest property holders of any race citizen in Shelby County.

For many years, Mrs. Wilburn operated the Emma Wilburn Funeral Home but leased the place in recent years to the National Burial Association which operates the Southern Funeral Home. Several years ago she took over the New Park cemetery, situated in South Memphis and developed it into one of the finest burial sites in this section.  She will be remembered for the annual memorial celebration sponsored at New Park cemetery, and other activites given there as a indication of a fine public spirit.

Her son, Mr. Hudson Barbee, operates the Barbee Casket Company, which does a flourishing business and regarded to be the most successful concern of its kind owned or operated by race people.

Mrs. Cutis Thomas, daughter of the deceased, having inherited many qualities of Mrs. Wilburn has been successful in the operation of Curtis Thomas Funeral Home.

In Los Angeles, Calif. Mr Johnson Rideout, unitl recently had a successful undertaking establishment, know as the Rideout Funeral Home, one fo the most elaboratley equipped fuernal homes on the coast. During the fall of 1935, Mrs. WIlburn flew to Los Angeles to witness the official opening of the Rideout Funeral Home. She was the first Negro to ride the American Airway Lane as a passenger out of Memphis.

When local officials at the airport objected to her taking the plane for the trip and attempted to revoke her ticket, Mrs. Wilburn wired headquarters at Chicago, ILL. They instructed local officials to take the passenger. Her air voyage was marked by all the fanfare incident to setting of a precedent by a race citizen in this form of travel.

Besides the aforementioned children, the deceased is also survived by Mrs. Minnie Lee Rideout and Mrs. Sadie B. Watkins of Los Angeles; three sister, Mmes. Jessie Edwars, Mrs. Nannie McCoy Hails, Tenn.; Mrs. Minnie Davenport, Memphis; and three grandchildren.