Former Chattanooga Mayor Robert Kirk Walker died Thursday afternoon. He was 81.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Highland Park Baptist Church.
While he was mayor in the early 1970s, an aggressive annexation policy about doubled the city's area. It went from 56.3 square miles to an area of 120.1 square miles. Some 47,000 residents were added.
Mr. Walker was active in the founding of Miller Park across from the Federal Building and in the addition of the Miller Plaza.
He recently made a $300,000 contribution toward the restoration of the Community Theater at Memorial Auditorium.
Mayor Ron Littlefield called Robert Kirk Walker "an elder statesman of the highest caliber."
He said Mayor Walker "helped make Chattanooga the important city it is today."
He said Mayor Walker "during his one term did the very unpopular thing of carrying out a massive annexation. But it was necessary to spread the footprint of the city.
"He took the heat. Then he went back to his law practice."
Mayor Littlefield said Mr. Walker "was the driving force behind Miller Park." He said that block across from the Federal Courthouse included rundown restaurants and adult establishments. "He assembled the property and had it cleared. He made Miller Park into the jewel it is today."
He said Mr. Walker was "a brilliant organizer, fundraiser and motivator" for numerous worthwhile Chattanooga projects.
Mayor Littlefield said there were numerous "trials and tribulations" during the Walker term, including a large gas tank farm fire, an explosion that leveled several buildings on MLK Boulevard and the flood of 1973.
"He said he would not have been surprised if we had not been infested with lcousts and had the river turn to blood," Mayor Littlefield said.
He stated, "He was an important advisor to me. I'll certainly miss him."
He was born in Jasper, Tn., the son of Jerry and Clemmie Walker, and was descended from the first permanent settlers in 1769 in the territory which became the state of Tennessee. Mr. Walker had lived in Chattanooga since he was four years of age. He graduated from Central High School as an honor student.
He studied at the University of the South (Sewanee) in the Naval V12 program. He attended Northwestern University Midshipman School and was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy, serving aboard a destroyer in the Atlantic before being released to inactive duty in 1946.
He graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1948 with a law degree having been elected to Order of Coif. He was admitted to practice of law in Virginia and Tennessee and various courts.
He was a member of the law firm Strang, Fletcher, Carriger, Walker, Hodge and Smith for over 50 years. He was currently serving as counsel for the law firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel.
Mr. Walker was recalled to active duty in the Navy during the Korean Conflict serving for two years in the Atlantic fleet and being discharged as a Senior Grade Lieutenant.
He served with distinction as president of the Chattanooga Bar Association and was the second youngest attorney to ever serve as President of the Tennessee Bar Association. During his tenure, he provided leadership in establishing the foundation for the Board of Professional Responsibility and of convening the First Citizens Conference on Court Modernization. He was a life member of the United States Judicial Conference for the Sixth Circuit.
Among other highlights of his service-filled career, were his leadership in bringing a state college (UTC) to reality; during his service as Mayor, he considered the annexation program which increased the geographical size of the city by 113% and added 60,000 in population, his single most important long-term accomplishment; leadership in establishing public/private partnership relationships for community projects including Miller Park, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, Miller Plaza, and Bluff View Park; he founded Leadership Chattanooga and provided a central leadership role in the restoration of the Tivoli Theatre and in redevelopment and rededication of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium.
He served as General Campaign Chairman of United Way in 1991 reaching the goal of over $10 million. He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga. He was listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in the World.
Among the many honors and awards he received in recognition of his contributions and service were Kiwanis Distinguished Service Award in 1992; the Dorothy Patten "Love of Chattanooga" award in 1991; Seratoma International "Service to Mankind Award" in 1969; Chattanooga Sales and Marketing Executives "Distinguished Salesman at Large Award" in 1968; U.S. Department of Army "Patriotic Civilian Service Award" in 1975; Boy Scout "Silver Beaver Award" in 1966; Optimist "Man of the Year" in 1956; honored by the Tennessee General Assembly for service contributions to perpetuate the public good in 1998; ten Freedom Foundation Awards; Crusader Award for outstanding service from Tennessee Temple University in 2000; UTC Alumni Council DSA 1998.
The University of the South awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Laws in 2000. Tennessee Temple University awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 2004.
If asked, the reason for his accomplishments he would say that he attributes his success to his "Joy" (the former Joy Holt) whom he married in 1945.
He was a member of the First Baptist Church and the Waters Sunday School Class; John Sevier Chapter Sons of the American Revolution; a Fellow of American, Tennessee and Chattanooga Bar Foundations; Trustee of University of Chattanooga Foundation, Chair 2004-2006; Director of Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation; Member of Tonya Public Affairs Committee of the University of the South since 1980; Chairman, Miller Park Board since 1974.
Burial will be in Forest Hills Cemetery.
The family will receive friends on Friday from 6-9 p.m. at the East Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home and on Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Highland Park Baptist Church.
Honorary pallbearers will be the mayors of Chattanooga, Members of the Chattanooga Tennessee Bar Association and Members of the University of Chattanooga Foundation.
Arrangements are by the Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, East Chapel, 404 South Moore Road, Chattanooga, TN 37412.