Information on African-American Race Track of the 1940's

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - by Harmon Jolley

A reader asked if anyone had information on an African-American race track in the 1940's in Chattanooga.  http://www.chattanoogan.com/2014/7/13/280255/Reader-Seeks-Information-on.aspx.

Local racing historian Robert F. Richey responded with the following information.  If you would like to correspond with Mr. Richey about this or any other local racing topic, you may contact him at rasrichey@comcast.net.

I read your article about someone inquiring about  African Americans racing in Chattanooga. I remember well the two or possibly three times that this happened at the Chattanooga Speedway in Alton Park.

The first thing is to get the location correct. The reader's theory  is correct in that the speedway was the same located on Wilson Road at the rear of where Heat Tech is now located. The track could not be seen from the road as one had to turn down a dirt road running horizontal with the creek just before you crossed the bridge spanning Chattanooga Creek. We often referred to Chattanooga Speedway as The Alton Park Race Track which at times when the wind was just right put a terrible odor into the air.

On the few days that the African American's raced everything was the same as a regular race day with the exception of drivers owning their cars. The regular drivers loaned their cars to the African American drivers for those particular race days. There was one driver with the moniker of Railhead Johnson and he borrowed my dads car for one of the special races.

I have some action pictures of races at Chattanooga Speedway and in one or two of the photos you can see people in trees outside the track watching for free. Also, some of the big smokestacks of nearby industries and Lookout Mountain can be seen in the background.

Another thing your reader wrote of was The Warner Park Raceway and the Warner Park Field House. The racetrack was a half mile dirt track with virtually no banking as was customary with the shorter tracks of the time. The field house was constructed in about 1952 or '53  for a Billy Graham crusade and took the place of another smaller building that had occupied the same spot.

The grandstand, which burned to the ground sometime in the 50's was across the wide walkway from the pool fronting the front stretch and the backstretch ran along Holtzclaw Avenue. The track surrounded the Cook softball fields and Hargraves baseball field. Just a few years ago you could still see a concrete curb along where the inside of the backstretch was. I have at least one picture with the Third Street viaduct in the background taken from the infield.

The Warner Park track was originally constructed for horse racing. I was told by someone about sixty or more years ago that when open cockpit racers started racing there in the twenty's or thirty's that some chemical put on the track to keep the dust down was detrimental to the horses hooves, and that was the end of horse racing. I personally got to see stock car racing, motorcycle racing and also got to see The Joey Chitwood Daredevil show on several occasions.

 Regards

Robert F. Richey


Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Presents Book

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society presented the book Order of First Families of North Carolina Registry of Ancestors by John R. Brayton, The book contains research information from the days when Tennessee made up the western-most portion of North Carolina.  Many of the residents of Signal Mountain can trace their families to that time and location.  Betty Fassnacht, ... (click for more)

TSLA Releases a New Digital Collection Showcasing Tennessee Folklife

What do roley hole marbles, white oak baskets, shape-note singing, and banjoes have in common? All are examples of Tennessee folk culture or "folkways" available online in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ newest digital collection: "Tennessee State Parks Folklife Project Collection, 1979-1984." The collection documents folk culture unique to Tennessee and highlights Tennessee's ... (click for more)

Woman Assaulted, Man Shot In Chamberlain Avenue Home Invasion

A woman was assaulted and a man shot in a home invasion on Chamberlain Avenue early Friday morning. At approximately 4:43 a.m., the Chattanooga Police Department responded to 2708 North Chamberlain Ave. for a home invasion/shooting.   Officers discovered that a black male forced entry into the residence and assaulted the first victim, a female. Th e suspect ... (click for more)

10-Year-Old Boy Seriously Injured In Attack By Pit Bull At His Home In Sale Creek

A 10-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when he was attacked by a pit bull on Thanksgiving Day morning. At approximately 10:12 a.m. deputies were called to 175 Daugherty Ferry Road regarding a report of a dog attack on a child. On arrival the Sale Creek Fire Department found the child on the front porch of the residence.  The child’s father said his son came ... (click for more)

Lawlessness At Heritage Park

As a frequent visitor at Heritage Park in East Brainerd, I must say that the situation is becoming slightly out of control.  To start, parking is atrocious.  The unpaved lot contains nothing but loose gravel which has naturally given way to divots in the ground assuring you a few bumps.  Why isn't this area smoothed out?  It's not worth parking there anyways ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A ‘Black Friday’ Poem

On this, “Black Friday,” when frantic shopping and crowded aisles cause some nerves to wear thin, please allow me to share a poem a friend sent me not long ago called “Shoes in Church.” Perhaps it will be fitting: SHOES IN CHURCH I showered and shaved. I adjusted my tie. I got there and sat In a pew just in time. Bowing my head in prayer, as I closed my eyes. I saw ... (click for more)