The storied wrought iron gates of Graceland are among the most famous gates in the world—a piece of Americana steeped in rock and roll legend. The gates represent hope to the countless fans who once lined up outside for the chance to catch a glimpse of the King. They also represent a safe haven to the very private residents they once guarded. And to the over 500,000 fans who visit Graceland each year to see the iconic home of Elvis Presley, they represent the kind of warm southern welcome you can only experience in Memphis, Tennessee.
Since their installation about a month after Presley bought the house in 1957, the gates have tirelessly opened and closed on command to both greet guests and to shield Graceland from the outside world.
Motorized operators are the unsung heroes behind the gates’ daily performance. And when it came time to install new operators, the King called the company most suited to serve the best-known residence this side of the White House—Dillard Door.
Dillard Door installed the gate operators and performed service work through the 1960s, recalls John Dillard, Jr., former owner of what is now Dillard Door and Entrance Control. The service work brought Mr. Dillard, Jr.’s father, the late John Dillard, Sr., who owned Dillard Door at the time, to Graceland periodically. There, he became acquainted with members of the Presley family.
“He seemed to enjoy conversing with Vernon Presley (Elvis’s father). He thought Vernon was an interesting character,” Mr. Dillard, Jr. said. Still, the elder Dillard was anything but star-struck. “He didn’t talk about it—it was just another customer,” he said.
Bill Hobbs, current Vice President of Operations at Dillard Door and Entrance Control, recalls one anecdote passed on by Mr. Dillard, Sr. regarding a Graceland visit.
While Mr. Dillard, Sr. waited in a room alone, a phone rang. “Mr. Dillard said the phone kept ringing and ringing,” Hobbs said. “Finally, Mr. Dillard picked it up, only to hear Elvis on the line asking to speak to his mother. What impressed Mr. Dillard most from his brief conversation with the music star was his politeness.”
Though Dillard Door’s work at Graceland ended sometime in the late 1960s, when the company made a decision to get out of the gate operator business, the company’s association with the famous home continued.
Mr. Dillard, Jr. recalls a man from Mississippi who built a home that was intended to be a replica of Graceland.
He needed operators for his gates and discovered that Dillard Door still had the equipment from Elvis’s home.
“The guy got so excited he came right up and bought them,” Mr. Dillard, Jr. said.
Dillard Door and Entrance Control has been keeping Memphis safe and sound since 1947. From its beginning as a small business specializing in door sales, Dillard Door and Entrance Control has grown into an enterprise that offers the most advanced security solutions available today.