Elvis Presley’s father, Vernon, was devastated by the death of his son. Though Vernon and others in Elvis’ life had been worried about him, his death still came as a shock. Vernon was deep in mourning and understood that many fans were, too. According to Graceland maid Nancy Rooks, Vernon Presley felt an obligation to Elvis’ fans in the days after his death.
Elvis’ father, Vernon, wanted to do something for fans after his son’s death
Ahead of Elvis’ funeral service, Vernon decided to host a public viewing of his body at Graceland. He opened the doors for thousands of fans to come pay their respects. While he felt this was the right move, Graceland security disagreed.
“Secretly they felt they needed to let Vernon know that it was not such a good idea to allow thousands of shocked and emotional fans to not only get onto the grounds of Graceland, but actually take a few steps inside the mansion,” Rooks wrote in her book Inside Graceland: Elvis’ Maid Remembers. “There was also the fear of a riot if that many fans, already emotionally overwrought and burdened by the death of their idol, should suddenly become, perhaps not intentionally, hysterical and out of control.”
Vernon went ahead with the plan, though.
“Vernon, through tear-stained eyes, said something to the effect that, ‘Elvis would want us to let as many fans through as possible. Let’s keep the gates open as long as we can. I want as many people to have one last look at my son as possible.’”
Rooks believed that Vernon felt a sense of obligation to the fans that had arrived to share in his grief.
“The decision was made to extend the viewing another hour, in hopes of getting as many waiting fans through the line as possible,” she wrote. “Even after another hour, however, the lines appeared to be growing even longer. Vernon, feeling an obligation to the many fans who were still waiting outside in the extreme temperatures, could not bring himself to close the gates just yet, and so another half hour was added to the viewing time.”
Elvis’ father was beside himself with grief
Rooks noted that while Vernon made decisions about the viewing hours, he seemed “so frail and vulnerable” all that day. He struggled with the loss of his son, though he explained that he took comfort in his faith.
“I am more heartbroken than I can express over Elvis’s death,” he wrote, per Good Housekeeping. “Yet I’m comforted by the sure knowledge that my son was a gift from God, and his life was always in God’s hands. From one point of view, I would have wished him to live forever. Yet I know that his early death, like all of his life, was a part of God’s plan.”
Priscilla Presley found it amazing that so many fans came to show their respects
Though security worried about letting so many fans into Graceland, Elvis’ family took comfort in knowing how well-loved he was. All during the visiting hours, Priscilla Presley watched the crowds of mourners streaming into the home.
“Soon the casket was placed in the entrance hall and opened for viewing,” she wrote in her book Elvis and Me. “I sat in Grandma’s room most of that afternoon as thousands of mourners from all over the world passed by, paying their last respects. Many wept; some men and women even fainted. Others lingered at the casket, refusing to believe it was him. He was truly loved, admired, and respected.”