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1971-1975 Robert Kirk Walker

Robert Kirk Walker 1971(b. May 22, 1925 - )

A native Chattanoogan, Robert Kirk Walker attended the University of the South and the University of Virginia School of Law.  While maintaining his law practice, Walker was active in community service, especially interested in education and the need for higher education in Chattanooga.  He served as chairman of the Special Four Year State College Committee and the Educational Task Force set up by the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.  In this position, he pushed legislation that allowed the University of Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee to merge, creating the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Walker was also influential in gaining state funds for the expansion of Chattanooga State and relocating the school to its current location on Amnicola Highway.

These experiences and his desire to help further develop Chattanooga, led Walker to announce his candidacy for mayor in late 1970.  Elected in March 1971, Mayor Walker took the helm as Chattanooga faced race riots, fire bombings, and downtown decline. 

Throughout his term, Mayor Walker created the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) to improve public transportation, repealed Sunday Blue Laws allowing businesses to open at 1:00pm on Sundays, and lead the city in a time of great expansion through annexation.  When Mayor Walker took office, the city of Chattanooga consisted of 56.3 square miles and 119,923 citizens. At the end of his term, the city contained 120.1 square miles and 169,952 people.

Mayor Walker brought national attention to Chattanooga through the digitization of city records.  Under Mayor Walker’s leadership, the city developed an information retrieval system designed to computerize data used to assist forty-two government and private agencies.  By 1973, the system was a prototype for other city governments, and Mayor Walker was invited to address the National Computer Conference held in New York City.  Between 1973 and 1975, 130 local governments in thirty-two states visited Chattanooga to see the Human Services Delivery System and Urban Management Information System in use.

Mayor Walker was also instrumental in orchestrating a joint agreement between the city and county to build the Chattanooga Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, consolidating police services at the Police Services Center on Amnicola Highway, and setting aside land for three public parks, including what is today Miller Park.

Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea