Cas Walker: A political force for decades

8:02 PM, Jul 24, 2013   |    comments
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He was unafraid to stand up for his beliefs and fight for "the common man".  Cas Walker's time in politics landed him in the National spotlight.

He was very controversial...for many different reasons , you either loved him or you hated him," said Bradley Reeves of TAMIS, who has researched Walker for decades. "He could play some dirty politics if need be..which is nothing new today only he was more obvious about it."

 First elected to Knoxville city council, Walker was elected Mayor in 1946 but was later ousted in a recall election. He served as acting Mayor in 1959 filling in for Jack Dance who died in office.

Former Vice Mayor and city councilman Jack Sharp (who did not serve on city council with Walker) remembers Cas as a man who stood up for the little guy.

"His appearance sometimes was rough. He wore and old suit and I don't think he ever changed it," said Sharp. He was known as the common man. He dealt with the common person."

Former County Commissioner Wanda Moody worked with Walker while she wsa on the School Board and considered him a friend.

"I think most people thought that he represented the little person," said Moody.   "The person that didn't have a voice in government because it was perceived those who had money had a voice and he was the voice for the people who didn't have money."

A disagreement with a fellow city councilman over property assessments landed Walker in the national spotlight.

"They got into it..right at council meeting," recalled Sharp. "Got in a little brawl at a council meeting one night and they took a picture of it and it ended up in Life magazine which was one of the biggest magazines at the time."

Sharp remembers Cas calling him to come over and meet about a  disagreement the two were having over fluoridation of city water. Sharp was for it while Walker was against it.

"Cas called me one afternoon and said 'when you're teeth fall out, I'll help you buy some new teeth but you're coming out here now' and I thought 'if I get out there, I might not have any teeth when I leave," recalled Sharp. 

Moody also admits she and Walker didn't always agree on issues.

"I remember one instance in particular back when sales tax was first voted on in Knoxville. It was a local sales tax," recalled Moody. "We in the school system supported it, thought it was good for the schools and good for the community. Mr. Walker was very much opposed to it and of course, we in the school system worked pretty diligently to pass it and he saw that we did and of course we won and after that he would kid me periodically and say 'oh, you've got to get down on your knees and pray over that'."

Walker may have left political office but he kept his finger on the political pulse of Knoxville through his "Watchdog" Publication.

"You better get the Watchdog and see who he was talking about, good or bad," said Sharp. "Funny thing bout the Watchdog was (that) a lot of people didn't want people to know that they read the watchdog. (They) would send someone to gstand in line. I've seen as many 15 to 20 people standing at the doors, waiting on the Watchdog to come and they'd get 3 to 4 copies. So they were taking them somewhere."

While the years since he's been in office have brought many political changes to East Tennessee, one thing remains the same: There will never be another politician like Cas Walker.

"I think he fostered the principles of fairness with the opportunity for everybody to do good. I think that will be the legacy of Mr. Walker," said Moody.

"In government, you got to have people who'll stand up and really fight and push what they want," said Sharp. "On issues today, I think Cas would've stood up and said 'I want to tell you something'. I'd like to have him back, yes."

Cas Walker clips in this video used with permission of Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound.


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