A love storyBook details Vicksburg resident’s five-year residence with Elvis

Published 12:15 am Sunday, December 9, 2012

Out of earshot of her husband, Anita Wood Brewer used to whisper to her daughter stories about her relationship with Elvis Presley.

“I’ve been told these stories my entire life,” Jonnita Brewer Barrett said.

About five years ago, Barrett began collecting her mother’s stories about The King, and that collection eventually evolved into her book “Once Upon A Time: Elvis and Anita,” but she and her mother decided not to share the stories until her husband of 46 years, former NFL star Johnny Brewer, died.

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“She would only talk about it for so long and never in front of him,” their daughter said.

“Your first love, you never forget. I only had two in my life. Him and Johnny,” Anita Brewer said. “Elvis was my first love and Johnny was my true love.”

Johnny Brewer, a native of Redwood, died May 27, 2011, spurring Barrett to finish the collection detailing her mother’s life with Presley.

“After he died, I just felt this very strong need to finish the book. She had all these great stories we never wrote down, so I had a goal of having her story down on paper forever,” Barrett said.

The book details the five-year relationship between Wood and Presley and contains photos of the couple and a number of love letters in Presley’s handwriting.

Anita Brewer, who is now 74, dated Presley from 1957 until 1962, and, at one point, the two planned to marry. Her husband and true love knew of the relationship, but didn’t know many details, she said.

“I didn’t really want it public or published until something happened to Johnny,” she said.

Helping her daughter with the book brought back joy and pain, Anita Brewer said.

“It brought a lot of things to the front,” Anita Brewer said. “It was sad to think about how he is gone and died so young.”

The couple met after Presley saw her on a teen dance television show she hosted in Memphis. Anita Wood, a native of a small town near Jackson, Tenn., hosted that show and a radio program in Memphis after winning a talent contest in 1954. A member of Presley’s inner circle called Anita Wood to tell her Presley wanted to take her on a date, but she turned him down.

“I already had a date that night. I told him I wouldn’t break with Elvis for someone else, and I couldn’t treat him any different because that’s how I was brought up,” Anita Brewer said.

Anita Wood lived at Graceland with Presley and his family for a number of years and said she grew close to them. She vividly remembers the day Presley left after being drafted into the U.S. Army.

“I didn’t want him to see me cry,” she said.

She was famously captured on film holding the hand of Presely’s mother, Gladys, as Presley boarded a bus for boot camp.

“I think that particular time was a bonding time for Mama, Elvis and his parents,” Barrett said.

Anita Wood had planned to follow Presley to Germany where he was stationed in 1960, but Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, objected, she said.

“He thought it would be bad for Elvis’ career if I was over there,” Anita Brewer said.

In Germany, Presley met Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he married in 1967.

“Her not going to Germany changed the course of everything,” Barrett said.

In 1962, Anita Wood discovered a love letter from Beaulieu that Presley had been keeping in his office and overhead him talking to relatives about the girl. She packed her things and left Graceland for good.

Though there are some negative occurrences detailed in the memoir, Anita Brewer said she remembers Presley in a positive light.

“He was loving and caring and not selfish,” she said. “He was not perfect by any means but he was great at what he did.”

Anita Brewer moved to Warren County in the early 1970s after her husband retired from the NFL. After his retirement from pro sports, Johnny Brewer worked in insurance and was a county election commissioner. Anita Brewer served as executive director of Woodlawn Baptist Church Kindergarten and Day Care Center.

To purchase

“Once Upon A Time: Elvis and Anita” by Jonnita Brewer Barrett is available for purchase at