Business and political leader Harold Coker died Sunday morning after falling at his farm on Saturday and being taken to a local hospital. He was 84.
Senator Bob Corker said, "Harold Coker loved being involved in politics, loved being involved in the community, grew a successful business and was a friend to so many in our city. But more than that, anyone who spent any time with him knew his favorite roles in life were being husband to Lill, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
“The Coker family members are in our thoughts and prayers as we remember Harold's remarkable life."
Tony Sanders, chairman of the Hamilton County GOP, said, "Hamilton County has lost a great man and friend to all."
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Lil Coker and her family over the passing of former Commissioner Harold Coker. Harold was a dedicated public servant who worked tirelessly to make Hamilton County a better place to live. His contributions to Hamilton County are seen through the county in the many public projects he was a key vote in implementing. Hamilton County is a better place to live because of Harold’s twenty years of leadership on the Hamilton County Commission."
Visitation will be at Chattanooga Funeral Home East, 404 S. Moore Road, on Tuesday from 3-7:30 p.m. The family will have a private graveside service.
The public is invited to a Celebration of Life service on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Woodland Park Baptist Church, 6735 Standifer Gap Road.
He was called the father of the Hamilton County Republican Party, and he started a tire company that went worldwide.
Mr. Coker had a long tenure on the County Commission and served three terms as chairman. When he won the District 7 seat, there were few Republicans in local office. He was on the commission for 20 years from 1982 until he opted not to run in 2002. He was chairman in 1986, 1995 and 1999.
He and his wife, Lill, worked hard to get other Republicans elected and the GOP gradually gained most of the local elective offices. He was a longtime member of the Pachyderm Club and served as its president. He was also president of the Hamilton County Republican Party.
He was among those who worked to set aside the former VAAP property at Tyner for the Enterprise South Industrial Park, where Volkswagen, Amazon and other large firms have located.
Mr. Coker started Coker Tire Company in 1958. His son, Corky Coker, wrote, "Dad was raised along with his two brothers, Bob and Bill Coker, with an appreciation and love for old cars. Their dad (my grand dad) was a long time mechanic and loved Model A Fords. Known by many as 'Pop' Coker, it was rumored he was able to make a Model A Ford run better by simply leaning against its fender.
"Hardy Corn Coker was Pop’s real name, but everyone called him Pop. He was the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters raised on a farm in the mountains of western North Carolina."
"Pop was directly responsible for helping my Dad start Coker Tire. You see, my dad founded Coker Tire with the help of some money my grandfather (Pop Coker) and grandmother (Mom Coker) received from selling their house several years earlier. My dad never forgot that either. Working or not, there was always a paycheck waiting for Pop every payday long after he retired and I ran the business and until he passed away at 97 years."
Coker Tire was first located on Brainerd Road, then it established a division in an old building on Chestnut Street that sells antique tires worldwide.
Mr. Coker had a collection of antique cars at his farm on Standifer Gap Road. The collection included a rare Chattanooga-built Nyberg.
Recently, he appeared on a reality TV show with son, Corky, and other family members about the family's fascination with antique cars.
He was a member of the EPB Board at the time of his death.
Mr. Coker was a member of Woodland Park Baptist Church.
His children include Corky, David and Christie Bowen.