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Music industry veteran Jerry Schilling still remembers the day he met Elvis Presley — and the last he spent with his close friend. He’d met the future King of Rock & Roll playing in a pickup football game as boys; they grew up in the same Memphis neighborhood. By his telling, nobody knew what Presley would become in just a few years. “He couldn’t even get six kids his own age to play football,” he remembers.

That neighborhood boy would go on to become the most recognizable Western entertainer of the 20th century. In fact, the King just received a much-overdue White House honor. Today (Nov. 16) the iconic singer and actor was awarded with the Medal of Freedom, courtesy of President Donald Trump. He was posthumously selected along with baseballer Babe Ruth, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and other American notables.

As his business partner and confidante, Schilling was there until his death in 1977. During the funeral procession to the Meditation Garden at Graceland Mansion to lay the King to rest, Schilling saw something astonishing: people of all races and creeds paying tribute to the King.

“Whether it was a black person or a white person, an old person or a young person,” Schilling recalls to Billboard, trailing off. “Everybody was standing there in real honor and respect for Elvis Presley.”

The King went through a whirlwind of creative phases over the years in order to secure this eclectic audience: from his fiery run of early singles to his 1973 Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite comeback and beyond. The King’s star began to fade in the late-’70s, and Schilling would carve out his own legacy in the record industry, as manager for the Beach Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Joel.

But through it all, Presley and Schilling remained tight; Schilling still lives in the Los Angeles home the King bought him in 1974. And he never lost sight of the boy he met on that football field, who, in his words, “took me and the world on a great ride.”

Source : Billboard