Dean Arnold Writes About Wealthy Chattanooga Families

Friday, April 21, 2006
Signing books
Signing books
- photo by Suzanne Walker

“After living here for 10 or 15 years I realized that Chattanooga was not a normal city” but has “perhaps the largest amount of wealth per capita,” said Author Dean Arnold.

Mr. Arnold told guests gathered at his book signing Thursday evening in Artist Gordon Wetmore’s studio that his curiosity about the wealthy families of Lookout Mountain inspired him to write his newest book Old Money New South: The Spirit of Chattanooga.

Mr. Arnold said places such as Nashville may have around 100 extremely wealthy families, but Chattanooga has about eight to 10 families that are “a hundred times wealthier.” Through research Mr. Arnold said he discovered the “keystone fortune” is the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

His audience listened to his brief account of the advent of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company and how this enterprise led to an accumulation of wealth primarily among Lookout Mountain families (i.e. the Lupton family), which is thoroughly explained in his new book.

Lookout Mountain stands as an icon for “the old money,” he said, while the Tennessee Aquarium is an icon for the “new South.”

In spite of Chattanooga’s extreme wealth, in the 1960’s Walter Cronkite named Chattanooga the most polluted city. Leaders of the city, led by the Lupton family, rallied together and worked to improve the city. Later developments such as the Aquarium were created.

Mr. Arnold said today the Hunter Art Museum represents three phases of Chattanooga’s last hundred years. The original Hunter mansion, with its pillars, represents the aristocratic old money. The next addition to the museum “captures an era of little growth.” Lastly, the most recent addition is “out there. We’re not really sure what to do with it and that is the phase we’re in now.” Mr. Arnold said he believes this phase needs to be “rooted in the same ideals of the old money.”

The wealthy families of Chattanooga are different because they are extremely “philanthropic and charitable,” he said.

Mr. Arnold said in his book he attributes the charitable spirit of Chattanooga’s wealthiest to the Presbyterian conservative tradition. “They believe that you should give money to God. That’s why Chattanooga leads the country in foundation money and giving. They leave Lookout Mountain, they work and they believe it’s their civic duty to make a difference.”

Artist Wetmore said he finds the book “utterly fascinating.” He said he wishes he could have read the book in the 1960’s when he moved from Memphis to Chattanooga. “The book unravels many mysteries about Chattanooga.”

Mr. Wetmore said, “This book is good for Chattanooga but it’s not a puff piece. Dean is very frank.”

Mr. Arnold also wrote America’s Trail of Tears, which looks at the prehistory of Chattanooga. He said researching the Cherokee Indians sparked his interest in local history.

Old Money New South is not in stores yet, he said, but copies can be ordered from his website www.oldmoneynewsouth.com or bought from him personally.

Speaking to group
Speaking to group
- Photo2 by Suzanne Walker

Holiday All-Nighter For Animals And Home For The Holidays Or Bust

Volunteers and staff members of two local animal shelters, McKamey Animal Center and the Humane Educational Society in Chattanooga, are teaming up to help as many animals as possible find a home for the holidays. The staff and volunteers will be putting in a "Holiday All-Nighter" on Friday, Dec. 16 from noon-midnight. For twelve hours non-stop, the shelters will be adopting animals ... (click for more)

Chambliss Center For Children Preschoolers Decorate TVA Giving Tree

Santa Clause visited the Pre-K students from Chambliss Center for Children Friday when TVA Nuclear hosted its annual Giving Tree decorating party.  Each year the children from Chambliss Center visit the TVA headquarters to decorate a Giving Tree, visit with Santa and enjoy a pizza party hosted by TVA Nuclear volunteers. Every decoration adorning the tree has an agency wish ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police Officer Shot 3 Times In East Chattanooga; Later Is Released From Hospital; Manhunt On For Shooter

A Chattanooga Police officer was shot three times on Thursday morning in East Chattanooga. The incident happened shortly after 9 a.m. on Mission Avenue near Glenwood Drive. He was able to drive himself to the hospital and later was treated and released. Chattanooga Police Department Chief Fred Fletcher said the identity of the officer would not be released until the investigation ... (click for more)

CSAS Students Have Long Day At School Due To Concern Shooting Suspect Might Be On Campus

Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences students had a long day at school on Thursday after there was concern that a man who shot a police officer not far away had slipped onto the campus. Amy Katcher of the county schools said, " On Thursday, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences was evacuated around 3 p.m. as a precaution after a shooting incident in Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Tennessee River Gorge Trust Trail Warriors Make You Want To Take A Hike

Trail warriors of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust make you want to take a hike.  The Tennessee River Gorge Trust staff and volunteers make a huge difference in the Chattanooga community and have been making the outdoor areas around the River Gorge clean and protected for more than 30 years.  They deserve to be recognized and praised for all of the hard work they have ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Bible In Gatlinburg

The day after fire rained and reigned in Gatlinburg, Isaac McCord, 24 and from Tullahoma, was picking up debris at the popular Dollywood attraction. The theme park had minimal damage compared to the hundreds of structure either lost or severely damaged in Sevier County. He picked up a piece of paper that was in a puddle of water, beneath a bench. “It was one of the most surreal ... (click for more)