Remembering Jo Conn Guild

Tuesday, May 06, 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


Catoosa County Historical Society Meeting is December 8

The December meeting of the Catoosa County Historical Society will be held on December 8 at 6:30 PM at the Stone Church Museum, Ringgold, GA. A light Christmas meal will be served followed by music from the Mt.Peria Baptist Church men's group. We enjoyed them so much the last time they sang, we invited them to return. A love offering will be taken, so come prepared. The public ... (click for more)

Pioneering Pulpits Exhibit Opening at the Museum Center at 5ive Points

Pioneering Pulpits Exhibit Opens Sanctuary. Faith. Community. These words – among others – are synonymous with the concept of a church. The history of the Ocoee Region churches follows the pattern generally found in this area of the South. As new lands were opened for settlement, pioneers loaded their families and chattel in wagons and set out with bright hopes for the future. ... (click for more)

TVA Sues Cleveland's Allan Jones Over Dock, Retaining Wall, Boat Ramp, Boathouse On Hiwassee River

TVA has sued Cleveland, Tn., Check Into Cash millionaire W. Allan Jones Jr. over the construction of a dock, retaining wall, boat ramp and boathouse on the Hiwassee River. In the lawsuit in Federal Court, TVA said it told Mr. Jones before the construction was finished that he was on TVA property. The complaint says he has refused to move the construction from the river. ... (click for more)

Bobby Dodd Lawsuit Against City Moved To Federal Court

A lawsuit brought by former Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd against the city of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund over his pension has been moved to Federal Court. The lawsuit was earlier filed in Chancery Court by attorneys Jerry Tidwell and Adam Izell. The suit says former Chief Dodd opted for a plan that would have half of his pension go to ... (click for more)

Please Don't Close The Piccadilly Cafeteria At Hamilton Place - And Response

Oh, no. The Piccadilly Cafeteria at Hamilton Place is closing.  Its last day is Christmas Eve.  I will miss the great food they have there but most of all I will miss their servers, cashiers and waitresses.  They are all so friendly and accommodating.  They make it like it’s a home-style restaurant. I sure wish there was some way that Hamilton Place and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Manger Scene Stays!

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation struck the tiny town of Jay, Fla., earlier this month, the town mayor had a life-sized Nativity scene that had been displayed every Christmas for the past 40 years taken down and sold as “city surplus.” But in Alabama, things are different. When the foundation tried the same thing in Rainbow City, Ala., more people than all those who live ... (click for more)