Yankees great Babe Ruth and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will also posthumously receive the prestigious award, “the Nation’s highest civilian honor, which may be awarded by the President to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” the Office of the Press Secretary said in a statement Saturday.
“Elvis Presley defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world. Elvis fused gospel, country, and rhythm and blues to create a sound all his own, selling more than a billion records,” The White House said of the honor.
“Elvis also served nearly 2 years in the United States Army, humbly accepting the call to serve despite his fame. He later starred in 31 films, drew record-breaking audiences to his shows, sent television ratings soaring, and earned 14 Grammy Award nominations. He ultimately won 3 Grammy Awards for his gospel music. Elvis Presley remains an enduring American icon four decades after his death.”
While its common for musicians to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom – honorees during the Obama administration included Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Diana Ross, Loretta Lynn and Bruce Springsteen – Presley is only the third musician to receive the honor posthumously, following bandleader Meredith Willson and jazz great Count Basie during the Reagan administration.
As the entertainment industry has largely cold-shouldered Trump during his presidency, the administration instead opted to honor late American icons, like Presley and Ruth, for the 2018 ceremony.
Senator Orrin Hatch, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, football player-turned-judge Alan Page and Republican mega-donor Miriam Adelson will also receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.