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Kemmons Wilson: America's Innkeeper

It's hard to imagine that before he founded the Holiday Inn motel chain, travelers had few places to spend a night on the road

By Mike Brewster

In the early 1950s, a new Interstate Highway system, cheap gasoline, big cars, and prohibitively expensive air travel meant that even millionaires packed up the family and took to the road for driving vacations. It was summer, 1951, when Kemmons Wilson, one of Memphis' most well-known businessmen, left on a two-week trip to Washington, D.C., with his wife and five children.