By Chris Butler | Watchdog.org
NASHVILLE — Officials in Brownsville recently used $20,000 of taxpayer money to honor Tina Turner, who relinquished her U.S. citizenship last year and now lives in Europe.
Turner grew up in this rural area, about 65 miles northeast of Memphis, which runs along Interstate 40.
Brownsville taxpayers paid $20,000 to move Turner’s childhood schoolhouse for African-Americans, consisting of one room, 15 miles to the Delta Heritage Center, near the interstate.
Center officials have slightly renovated the schoolhouse and placed many of Turner’s costumes and gold records in the building, now officially known as the Tina Turner Museum.
The remainder of the money used to set up the museum, $280,000, came from private funds, said Sonia Outlaw-Clark, the center’s executive director, who said she hopes it will increase tourism in the area.
Someone in the area had used the schoolhouse as a barn for the better part of 50 years, and it still contains the original desks, chalkboard and benches that were there when Turner attended, Outlaw said.
Turner relinquishing her U.S. citizenship is a nonissue, Outlaw told Tennessee Watchdog.
“The school, whether Tina attended or not, still has significant historical value for Haywood County. That in itself being one of the last one-room schoolhouses, African American, built by a former slave, well, that’s really significant for our county as we have such a high African American population,” Outlaw said.
“For us it was a bonus that Tina went to school there because that helps us to build our tourism product. Yes, I realize she is now a Swiss citizen, but that doesn’t erase the fact that she started with nothing. She rose to fame and she became someone. The impact she’s had on American music is something you can’t deny.”
Part of the American dream, Outlaw added, is finding happiness.
“I think she’s found a place to be happy, and she’s comfortable.”
Brownsville Mayor Bill Rawls didn’t immediately return two requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.
The Washington Post, in reporting Turner’s move to Switzerland last year, said Turner didn’t formally renounce her U.S. citizenship, but instead took Swiss citizenship with the intent of losing her U.S. citizenship.
There are no tax penalties for loss of citizenship for Turner, the Post added.
Turner didn’t attend the museum’s grand opening ceremony, according to various media reports.