Four Way Restaurant owner Willie Earl Bates dies

Published: May. 21, 2016 at 1:28 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2017 at 12:29 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The owner of a Soulsville USA tradition has died.

According to loved ones, William Earl Bates, a former BTW football player and owner of Four Way Restaurant died on Friday after battling cancer.

Bates purchased the building where the Four Way Restaurant was at with a friend in 2001.

Bates, a Memphis native, said he chose to stay in Memphis because of the sense of community.

Bates spent a year renovating the building and combining four separate business spaces into one in order to create the restaurant.

The original owner, the chauffer of former Memphis mayor Boss Crump, opened it in 1946 under the name The Four Way Grill, and it was a quarter of its current size until Bates purchased it and began expanding it.

With doors swinging open to the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, Don King, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Jesse Jackson, B.B. King, Penny Hardaway, and many more, the building has seen its share of those whose names are well known throughout the nation and world, but who have enjoyed sweet southern cuisine in the heart of Soulsville at Four Way Restaurant.

From civil rights activists, community leaders, national leaders, to family friends and loved ones, the Four Way is located at the corner of Mississippi Boulevard and Walker Street and has been one of the ways the Bates family has given to their community.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.