A Mother’s Day Tribute: Gladys PresleyPosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on May 7, 2015 | 97 comments
Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10, so we’re celebrating the woman who gave her son to the world. Without Gladys Presley, we wouldn’t have Elvis Presley.
Gladys’ best-known trait is right there in her name: Love.
She was born Gladys Love Smith on April 25, 1912, in Pontotoc County, Mississippi – about 15 miles outside of Tupelo. She was one of nine children, and she loved to play basketball, dance and listen to music.
As a young girl, she worked on farms to help her family make ends meet. She later began working at a garment factory as a sewing machine operator.
It was in East Tupelo that she met her future husband, Vernon, at church. They quickly fell in love, and their courtship was brief – so they eloped. Vernon was just 17. Gladys was 21. On their marriage license, Vernon claimed he was 22, and Gladys said she was 19.
The couple were married on June 17, 1933, by a circuit clerk.
The Presleys were terribly poor during much of their marriage, but love kept them together and happy.
They welcomed their son, Elvis, on January 8, 1935, but also mourned the death of his twin, Jesse, who was stillborn. Gladys couldn’t have any more children, so she was fiercely protective of her only son. Elvis’ childhood friends have recalled that Gladys was a sweet mama bear, doting on Elvis, welcoming his friends into their home, but also making sure they all stayed safe and didn’t get into trouble.
After the Presleys moved to Memphis in November 1948, Gladys continued to work. Her jobs included working as a nurse’s aid at St. Joseph’s Hospital and working at Britling’s Cafeteria.
Elvis wanted to give his mother, who’d given him so much, a better life.
He purchased their first home on Audubon Drive, a year before purchasing Graceland. And of course, after he purchased Graceland, he welcomed his parents in with open arms.
Gladys lived at Graceland until her death in 1958, which broke her son’s heart. But Gladys’ impact on her son was lifelong. He was loving and protective of his own daughter, Lisa. He loved the same music Gladys loved and recorded some of her favorite songs. He shared his love of music with the world, the way she shared her love of music with her son.
Many fans may think of Graceland as the home of a rock star, but it’s also the home of a Southern man and his family. Elvis purchased Graceland so his parents could have a home they deserved. The home is full of Presley family artifacts and photos. Gladys and Vernon’s bedroom is on display, for example, and fans can see a gorgeous necklace Elvis purchased for his mother in the new “I Shot Elvis” exhibit. While visiting Graceland, many fans have seen Elvis’ famous pink Cadillac. After using it briefly on tour, Elvis gave it to his mother Gladys as a gift, even though she couldn’t drive. Elvis and both of his parents are buried at Graceland’s Meditation Garden.
Elvis Presley is known as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but he’s also known as a generous man who loved music, his family and giving back to the community. His rock ‘n’ roll instincts came naturally, but it was his mother who taught him how to be a good man.
Happy Mother’s Day, Gladys.