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Memphis was a center of machine politics from the 1910s through the 1950s under E. H. "Boss” Crump. In 1911, he was granted a state law to create a small commission to run the city. Crump's patronage was a strong part of the city's commission government system, which was maintained until 1967. According to the summary by L.B. Wrenn's analysis of the period revealed that "This centralization in political power in a small committee aided efficient transaction of municipal businesses, but the public policy results from it tended primarily to benefit upper-class Memphians and neglect the poorer residents and neighborhoods." To prevent another epidemic, the city built a new sewer system and improved sanitation and drainage. In the 1880s, pure water from an artesian spring was discovered. This provided water security for the city. As part of the national City Beautiful movement, the commissioners created a network of parks and public work, but they did not encourage heavy industry which could have provided significant employment for the working class. In the absence of representation in city government, minorities and the poor were underrepresented. All at-large positions were elected by the majority.
Memphis was not made a home rule state until 1963. However, the 1953 amendment to the constitution provided home rule for counties and cities. To amend its charter or for other policies and programs, the city first had to approve state bills. It can amend the charter with the popular approval of the electorate since 1963.