Remembering Jo Conn Guild

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - by John Shearer

One of the unique local residents of the past was Jo Conn Guild Jr.

As a businessman, he was successful, and as a personality, he was quite colorful.

Josephus Conn Guild Jr. was born in Chattanooga in 1887. His grandfather, George Guild, had been a Confederate Civil War veteran and later mayor of Nashville.

Jo Conn Guild’s father, Jo Conn Guild, was considered an engineering genius. He had helped develop the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and the waterpower plant at Hales Bar Dam.

The dam, the first on the Tennessee River, was built in 1913 through the efforts of the elder Mr. Guild, Chattanooga millionaire C.E. James and a wealthy New Yorker named Brady. The three had organized the Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company to build the dam.

The area in Marion County where the construction workers lived became known as Guild.

The elder Mr. Guild was also a close friend of John Roy Baylor and helped finance the construction in 1899 of the new Baylor School campus on Palmetto Street in Fort Wood, a facility that was later used by Girls Preparatory School.

Mr. Guild Jr. attended Baylor for eight years – from 1897 through 1905 – until enrolling at the University of Virginia. He later studied engineering at Vanderbilt and eventually helped in the construction phase of Hales Bar Dam.

He soon began building up his resume by going to work for the power company, becoming general manager in 1915. The company merged with Chattanooga Railway and Light Company in 1922 to become the Tennessee Electric Power Company, also known as TEPCO.

Mr. Guild continued to help grow the combined firm as vice president. In 1933, he was elected president. (The firm’s landmark Market Street office, which later housed the Electric Power Board, was recently torn down.)

The Chattanoogan knew how to succeed in the business world, but he ran into a greater challenge in the realm of government bureaucracy.

The U.S. government decided to take over the company’s power system by eminent domain and make it part of the government controlled Tennessee Valley Authority.

Mr. Guild vehemently – but unsuccessfully -- fought the move. One of his allies was another utility company president named Wendell Wilkie. Mr. Wilkie ended up being the unsuccessful1940 Republican presidential nominee against Franklin Roosevelt.

Mr. Guild held on to the railway phase of the business and reorganized it as Southern Coach Lines. It converted from using streetcars to buses about the time of World War II. He retired as president in 1961.

Besides helping Chattanoogans stay on the move, he kept on the go himself through the numerous sports cars he owned. At his home at 264 Stephenson Ave. on Lookout Mountain, he had a Jaguar, a Ferrari, a Lancia, a British-made Metropolitan and a Fraser-Nash, which had been specially made to fit his tall and large frame.

Seeing him go up and down the mountain in these cars – even in his later years -- was a familiar sight to residents of that time period.

Besides the fumes from these speedy cars, this man known as a natural storyteller also created smoke at his Lookout smokehouse, where he cured hams and sausage from his 320-acre cattle and hog farm near Columbia, Tenn.

He reportedly used some old family recipes.

His recipe for life was apparently to work hard and enjoy it to the fullest. He was a member of a number of social clubs and civic groups.

His 28-year marriage to Sarah Lamb Nichols produced one daughter, Mrs. Rupert Colmore Jr., and three grandsons, Rupert, Jo and John Colmore.

Mr. Guild had divorced his first wife in 1940 and remarried May Bondurant Young in 1942. She died in 1967.

Late in his life, Mr. Guild was confined to a wheelchair due to arthritis brought on by an old hunting accident.

Death for Mr. Guild came on June 26, 1969, at the age of 81. His obituary in the Chattanooga News-Free Press ran next to a funeral story about noted actress Judy Garland, who had died four days earlier.

His services wee held at Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church on Lookout Mountain, with the Revs. Harold E. Barrett and M.C. Nichols officiating.

Burial was in Forest Hills Cemetery.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


Civil War Historical Marker Ceremony To Be Held In June In Cleveland

The latest Civil War-related historical roadside marker will be dedicated during a special ceremony next month in Cleveland. The marker commemorates the difficult time during the Civil War when much of Bradley County lay between Union and Confederate lines. During this period, homes and businesses were vandalized and robbed by both pro-Union and pro-Confederate forces who took advantage ... (click for more)

Catoosa County Historical Society Meeting May 11

The Catoosa County Historical Society's May meeting will be this coming Monday May 11. 2015 at 07:00 PM at the Old Stone Church Museum. Our speaker will be Mr. Charles (Charlie) Harris,one of our members.He is also a member of the Dixie Relics Recovery Club. His topic will be "Confederated Coinage" during the Civil War. All are welcome to come and enjoy our fellowship and learn ... (click for more)

Unexpected Amount East Ridge Owes On Fire Hall Property Rises To $603,000; City To Apply For Reimbursement

The unexpected amount the city of East Ridge will owe the state on the fire hall property in connection with the Bass Pro development has risen to $603,000. Earlier, East Ridge officials said the payment would be $428,000. City Manager Andrew Hyatt said Monday, "The Tennessee Department of Transportation notified the city of East Ridge that an appraisal of the city’s former ... (click for more)

Fire Breaks Out At House Off Highway 58

A fire broke out on Memorial Day afternoon at a house off Highway 58. A 911 call was made at 12:10 p.m. reporting a house fire at 6019 Hillcrest Dr. The Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department responded and found fire showing on an addition to the house. Firefighters worked quickly entering the addition to extinguish the fire from spreading to the main level of the house. ... (click for more)

A Memorial Day Reflection

I wish I could find that combination of words that would capture an inclusive meaning of Memorial Day.  I have attended many Memorial Day programs at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, so many that now they have merged into one memory.  But what stands out is that each year there are more friends and veterans to visit.  Some gave their all many years ago.  And ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Two More Kick Out UAW

Woody Hayes, the great Ohio State football coach, used to teach his players to “paralyze resistance with persistence” but, my word, the likable theory has taken quite a beating in the past two years at the NTN-Bower ball-bearing plant in Hamilton, Ala. The workers there voted to decertify from the United Auto Workers union two years ago but getting the UAW out the door has turned ... (click for more)