On June 7, 1982, Priscilla Presley opened the doors of Elvis Presley’s Graceland estate to the public. Her late ex-husband’s mansion quickly became one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. A testament to Priscilla’s keen business decision, today Graceland is second only to the White House as the most-visited home in America.
Born as Priscilla Ann Beaulieu on May 24, 1945, in Brooklyn, NY, she spent her childhood traveling from Air Force base to Air Force base since her stepfather was an officer. As luck would have it, a 14-year-old Priscilla met Elvis Presley at a party in 1959 when they were both living in West Germany. Ten years her senior, the King of Rock and Roll was serving in the U.S. Armed Forces at the time. The two began an eight-year courtship, attracting the attention of both the media and Elvis’ countless fans. In March 1963, Priscilla convinced her parents to let her move in with Elvis at his Graceland estate in Memphis, TN, as long as she attended high school and lived in a separate house adjacent to the Graceland mansion. Two weeks after arriving at Graceland, Priscilla had quietly moved into the main house.
Elvis proposed to Priscilla in December 1966. After their nuptials on May 1, 1967, Priscilla quickly became pregnant. She gave birth to their daughter, Lisa Marie, on February 1, 1968. The couple’s relationship became strained, forcing them to decide to go their separate ways. On October 9, 1973, Elvis and Priscilla finalized their divorce but remained good friends. They were even spotted holding hands when they left the courthouse on the day of their divorce.
When Elvis died in 1977, Lisa Marie was his sole living heir. In 1979, Priscilla became the Graceland estate executor for Lisa Marie, who was only 11 years old at the time. The plan was that she would inherit the mansion on her 25 birthday. However, the upkeep of the mansion alone was tremendously expensive and Priscilla was unable to cover the upcoming $500,000 in taxes due on the estate.
Faced with having to sell Elvis’ iconic abode, she made the shrewd business decision to open Graceland to the public. Priscilla hired Jack Soden as the CEO and she co-founded Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) to oversee her business venture. Four weeks after opening its doors to Elvis fans around the globe, they made back all the money that they had invested.